Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for October, 2016

Questioning the Legitimacy of the Academy by Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 16

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Birthofanaiton.2.jpgThe Birth of a Nation writer, director and star Nate Parker has received much controversy for a scandal at his former college. His merit as a person is in question, even though he was found innocent. His film has received positive reviews from critics, so his artistry is not in question. The Academy is not the Nobel Peace Prize committee. They are not voting on how good or bad a person is, they are voting on their cinematic work. How do I know? A man who was found guilty on invidious charges was given an Oscar for Best Director, for his work on The Pianist. And that was someone found guilty. Woody Allen continues to get nominated for his work despite allegations associated with him. So why is it that Academy members declined to see a screening of The Birth of a Nation because of Nate Parker’s scandal when they have given Oscars to those found guilty and with equally troublesome scandals? I’m not saying race is the reason, but I’m not ruling it out. Let’s analyze this further.

One Academy voter was quoted as saying that they wouldn’t see the movie because there have been too many movies with the subject of slavery recently. Since Amistad was a major Oscar player in 1997, I can only think of three major movies that deal with slavery in the last 10 years: Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, and The Birth of a Nation. Even if that’s “too many,” the voters who use that as an argument must not mind seeing movies about or with WWII as the backdrop. In the past 10 years there’s been: Oscar_Awards.jpgAtonement, Inglorious Bastards, Fury, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, The King’s Speech. And that list doesn’t include the, soon to be released Hacksaw Ridge and next year’s Dunkirk. That’s already more than twice the amount of films dealing with slavery and I could still go on. So why the complaint about too many movies on slavery, but not a word on the multitude of WWII movies that get nominated for numerous Oscars.

Beyond the skeptical excuses given by these Academy members for not seeing the film, how about basic integrity? If their job is to vote for the best films of the year, why wouldn’t they see as many films as possible? It’s their job and the purpose of attending a screening. The very merit of the Academy Awards takes a shot with the knowledge of this news. Academy voters purposely not seeing a film because of ludicrous reasons that they’ve only applied this one time to this filmmaker and this film. No one refused to see Midnight in Paris. No one refused to see Carnage. But they’ve refused to see Birth of a Nation. Furthermore, the Academy’s merit is also challenged by the fact that their voters have a history of voting for things they haven’t seen. I’m sure you’ll remember when news broke out that two anonymous voters admitted to having voted (ironically enough) 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture despite having not seen it. And that’s for Best Picture; imagine how many of them see the films nominated for Animated Short or Foreign Film.

Personally, I think their reasons for not seeing Birth of a Nation are absurd. Their voting history goes against any and every excuse they could possibly use. Too many movies on slavery lately? Yet, they continue to watch and nominate WWII movies. The filmmaker is too controversial? They keep nominating and awarding Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. The film is too violent or graphic? They recently nominated The Revenant, the aforementioned 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street. But beyond that, the most upsetting part has to be their lack of care for their merit and responsibility. These are people that vote for the biggest award in the film world. Careers are affected, legends are made and dreams are made or broken. Yes, I’m well aware that art is subjective and that winning an Oscar isn’t measurable of talent or deservedness, but it does have its merits. There is a certain seriousness and importance that an Academy Award poses. In a Willie1.jpgway, it separates the wheat from the chaff. It cements Hollywood legends and greats and immortalizes films. That’s a responsibility movie buffs and cinema lovers don’t take lightly. So we expect that voters for the Academy Awards would take the time to actually see as many films as they can see in order to for their vote to reflect the most educated opinion possible.

I contend that we should write the Academy. We need to make the Academy and these voters aware that we know they are not giving their all in undertaking their responsibilities. Their hypocritical excuses for excluding certain films over another will not be tolerated. If they are unwilling to do what it takes to make the most informed vote possible, then why should we be willing to watch their show and respect their institution? Whether they are honestly critical about Nate Parker’s allegations and that is keeping them from watching the film or, for racial reasons, they are shirking their duties as voters, their vote must not be compromised. And we, as fans of cinema and the Oscars cannot allow it. Pick up your pen and write them.

Disagreeing with Critics by Keefer C. Blakeslee

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.

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