Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for May, 2017

Hooray For OLD Hollywood By Clayton Pickard

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Last month, while visiting a college, I came upon a film on TCM called The Best Years Of Our Lives.   It’s a post WWII film about the difficulties soldiers faced in acclimating back into society after being in combat. Directed by William Wyler, it was released in 1946 and stars Myrna Loy, Fredric March and Dana Andrews. While watching the film, I had an epiphany that older movies flow much better than many current films. There isn’t any rush to change scenes, which allows the viewer to better comprehend what they’re watching. The pace also gives the actors and directors more breadth. I was really able to appreciate the humor of Myrna Loy.

This weekend, I watched Casablanca for the third time (one of my mother’s favorite films). Released in 1942, it is directed by Michael Curtiz and stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. Casablanca is a WWII film taking place in French Morocco.  What I really love about this film and other old movies is that they have amazing close-ups, which allow the viewer to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the stars’ faces. In this film, they show close-ups of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman that are heavenly.  Casablanca reveals the ambiguous complexity of right and wrong, unlike most movies of today. It shows the flat out truth of life, that there are no easy answers.

I also screened North By Northwest, which I’ve seen on DVD and at Film Forum. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars Cary Grant, Angie Dickinson and James Mason. It is a thriller/ adventure film made in 1959 about a clueless advertising executive who is mistaken for an American spy. The most extraordinary aspect of this film is that everything is shot on location, without any special effects or CGI. The iconic crop duster and Mount Rushmore scenes are done on location. This creates a real sense of verisimilitude, whereby the viewer feels as if it’s happening to them.

While I used to have a prejudice against old movies. Now, I am gaining an appreciation for them and starting to slowly move away from all the typical Hollywood blockbusters.

 

 

American Black or British Black: Why the Discussion? By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

 

Samuel L. Jackson recently spoke about how British black actors have recently been heavily cast in roles that he feels would have benefited more had they been filled by American black actors. He was referring to actors such as David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris and Daniel Kaluuya. Jackson stated that while these actors are doing fine jobs, the roles of Martin Luther King or Chris Washington could have been more judiciously played by American black actor. Let’s evaluate this.

As of late, yes, black Brits have been coming to the U.S. and taking roles in American films. They give stellar performances as Americans and create memorable cinema. Is that bad? Not necessarily so. After all, they’re still within a minority and represent an underrepresented community. Their country of origin shouldn’t matter. However, there is a reason behind their recent surge in Hollywood.

Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson are noted thespians. They’ve been trained and have experience on the stage and that translates in their screen performances. The problem is that, they’re beginning to be a part of a minority. The likes of Ejiofor and Oyelowo are trained in England, a very theatrical country. Film is still secondary to theater there and so, actors in Britain get classical theatrical training. For the most part, thespians still garner more respect than film actors (excluding Jack Nicholson). Having theater experience is essential to be respected as an actor and Americans increasingly ignoring that. They start in film and never venture into theater until after they’re established such as Jake Gyllenhaal or Leonardo DiCaprio.

When these thespians come to the U.S., they’re cheaper than American black film actors, have more respected training and can speak with impeccable American accents. Why wouldn’t they be hired? And why does that create a rift within the entertainment community? It should inspire American black actors to seek more theatrical training. And while Sam Jackson meant no harm with his statement, there’s a rather large debate over whether or not Hollywood should keep hiring black actors from overseas and not support more American black actors. All I can say is: it’s a business. A very cutthroat business, that’s all about survival of the fittest. If a group of actors comes into Hollywood better trained, does that mean another group of actors should complain about their roles being taken away? No. It means they should sharpen their skills and advance their training.

So before this becomes a bigger issue than it should, let’s just acknowledge that, what matters in the end is good cinema. So whether Martin Luther King’s story is told by a Brit or American, as long as it’s told well, it doesn’t matter. Movies are about stories and the imagination. Those don’t see color or nationality.

Finding Oscar – A Reflection on a Horrific Story from Not That Long Ago by Gerry O.

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Finding Oscar tells the heartfelt story of the small village of Dos Erres and it makes you feel inspired and outraged at the same time. There were many horrific events humanity witnessed in the last century – many wars, and lots of innocent people suffered. One event in Dos Erres, Guatemala was a terrible genocide that killed the entire village.

Finding Oscar is a documentary that reflects on historical events and educates people, especially the younger generation. The story that Finding Oscar delves into may seem unrealistic until the viewer realizes that these events really happened and that families were broken apart and young lives were cut short. The events were devastating and the tone of the film reflects that.

In the 1980s, Guatemala was in the midst of a horrendous civil war. In October 1982, the rebels, or guerrillas, attacked a convoy near a small farm village called Dos Erres. A special ops team of the Guatemalan government, very similar to the special ops of US, called Kaibiles, dressed as rebels and infiltrated the village, thinking there were weapons there. They divided the men into one building and women and children into another. Throughout the night, they tormented the entire population of the small village, especially the women and children. In the morning, the Kaibiles killed almost every person in the village, including the children. Only a few kids survived the entire massacre by accident. Two of them were then raised by the soldiers who killed their families.

In parallel, the documentary tells the story of people attempting to bring people responsible for committing the war crimes to justice. To do so and prove their involvement, they must find witnesses of the event, both the surviving kids and the soldiers who participated in the genocide. On top of that, the film looks into the neglectfulness of not only the Guatemalan government, but also the United Sates, which supported the Guatemalan government during the civil war, despite having intelligence about the Dos Erres Massacre and many others similar to it.

Finding Oscar takes a very complex situation and dissects it perfectly. Ryan Suffern (director, producer and co-writer) really tells this story in a masterful way. One aspect I absolutely love has to do with the story. Despite being filmed in the modern world, it talks about the events that happened in chronological order. Finding Oscar doesn’t look at the information as a documentary, but instead tells a story about people who either were connected to this tragedy or feel passionate about uncovering the truth and f inding justice. It begins with explaining the civil war and its causes. It goes on to explain the massacre and its immediate results. Another part that really adds to the effect of the story is the camerawork.

The scene I found the most impactful in this film has to be when one of the survivors gets reunited with his father more than thirty years later. At this point, the boy is grown and has a family of his own. His father, however, thought that the boy and the rest of his family, including eight children, had died in the genocide. The father realizes that he not only has a son and daughter in law, but grandkids as well. The scene is beautiful and so powerful that the entire audience cries.

The message and the story of Finding Oscar are important, but it has many mature elements. I recommend this to ages 13 to 18. The dark aspects of the genocide are rather impactful and unsuitable for younger children. However, I believe this is one of the films that everyone should watch so history doesn’t repeat itself. It is scary to think that these events took place in 1980s – not that long ago. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for its inspirational story and superb cinematography that add to the power of the plot.

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