Jury Coordination and Notes

The “F” Bomb by Keefer Blakeslee

August 19th, 2014

Keefer.2014.5.jpgWhen KIDS FIRST! Film Critics review a film, they give it an age recommendation so that parents are aware what their kids might witness in the movie. Every film has a rating such as G, PG and so on. However, as I watch movies, I am noticing that many things have changed regarding the censorship of the language used in films.

Film ratings are done by the MPAA, the Motion Picture Association of America. Whenever you see a trailer or movie poster there is always a MPAA rating, usually at the bottom. They’re there to inform parents, as well as kids, of what to expect during the film - whether it’s language or subject matter.

Let’s go over the ratings in film and what they mean.

         G: General audience: All ages admitted
      PG: Parental Guidance, Some material may not be suitable for children such as language, subject matter and visuals.
      PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13 for brief language, visuals and violence.
      R: Restricted. Those under age 17 are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian due to extreme language, visuals and even nudity.
      NC-17: No child age 17 and under admitted.

      It used to be that the “F” word was used only in R rated films. Now, I’m hearing R-rated language in PG-13 films where a 13-year-old or younger can here it. I was researching this subject when I stumbled on an article on Huffington Post that said, “Using the F-word outside of the R-rated world certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, prior to the adoption of the PG-13 rating in 1984, the F-word would periodically pop up in PG movies. Even after the creation of the PG-13 rating, movies like “Big” and “Beetlejuice” sneaked in the F-word and still secured a PG rating.”

      The word is sneaked. I have seen both of these films and I did not catch this the first time I watched it. Today, films are not simply “sneaking” the word in, they are blatantly throwing it out there. An example of this is “The Wolverine.” It’s rated PG-13 for violence and language. The studios and the raters know that most kids will want to see this film because it’s a superhero film. Of course, there is some of the usual language, but that’s what the parents expect. However, what they don’t expect, and I didn’t when I watched it, was a close up of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) saying “Go F# yourself!” There are two problems with this. One, it’s not necessary in this particular scene. The second problem is that we are not warned. Do you see on the description for the rating that includes, “F bomb used, be forewarned?” There is no history of using this word in any of the other X-Men films with the Exception of “First Class” (which was removed on the DVD)

      Does this mean that it is assumed that kids have heard the word and therefore are indoctrinated to it? Should we just assume they know what it means and that makes it okay to use? Is it acceptable as “show and tell word”? I know kids are smart, but they are kids! They are still learning. They still have a certain innocence. The point is, the word is not expected. Even if it’s used only once, why is acceptable in a movie that is rated PG-13?

      In some cases the “F” bomb can be appropriate. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” Hazel Grace uses the word once out of anger. I don’t picture many little kids begging their parents to watch a romantic film such as this. Its audience is primarily teens. Also, it is based on a book and the screenwriters wanted to stay true to the original source material.

      The article on Huffington post also says, “Officially, the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration’s guidelines state: ‘A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context.’”

      What I take away from that is that if we say the “F” word once, it can be considered a PG-13 movie. It’s up to the parents to find out for their kids if there is anything in the film to watch out for. Making it the parents’ job to this much research on the film, doesn’t it go against everything the ratings are supposed to do? This brings me back to the question of why these ratings are here to begin with - to warn us! I’m not saying movie ratings are not reliable we just need to be more cautious. You never know what could be in a movie. That’s what websites like KIDS FIRST! are here for. We inform kids and parents what to expect in a film. People need to stop assuming and find out the facts.

First Female Actress to win an Oscar by Brianna Hope Beatom

August 1st, 2014

Janet_Gaynor_publicity.JPGAwards are given to people for all categories in the film industry. For example, director, picture, costume, make up, actor and actress - just to name a few. Janet Gaynor got the ball rolling for actresses in film. Janet took home the Oscar for Best Actress in 1929 for her role in the film 7th Heaven, Sunrise and Street Angel at the very first Academy Awards on May 16, 1929.

Originally named, Laura Augusta Gainor, Janet started her life on October 6, 1906 in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At a young age, her parents Laura Buhn and Frank D. Gainor move to San Francisco, California to begin a new chapter in their life and it’s there she graduated from high school in 1923. Janet later moved to Los Angeles where she attended a secretarial school and took a job at a shoe store for $18.00 a week.

Even back then LA, had a reputation for its fame and talent in acting, singing and performing. It’s this very reason that Janet decided to try acting. She landed some small parts in many feature films and extra roles in comedy shorts. You could say, that she lived by the saying “Good things come to those who wait.”

In 1926, at age 20, she performed as Ann Burger in the Johnstown Flood and did an excellent job. She starred in films such as The Shamrock Handicap, The Blue Eagle, The Midnight Kiss, The return of Peter Grimm and many more. When “talkies” replace silent films, Janet was one of a few actresses that made a good transition with her voice on the screen. She starred in the films A Star is Born, The Young in Heart and Bernardine.

Her acting career slowed and the last play she performed in was a Broadway version of Harold and Maude. Honestly, the play was not as successful as they thought, but Janet and her strong acting skills made it better than it would have been without her. On the screen or on stage she definitely had what it took to entertain everyone.

Janet Gaynor died at the age of 77 and was a lady that taught us a valuable lesson - it doesn’t matter if it hasn’t been discovered or even invented, if we want something we have to make it happen instead of waiting for it to happen with no work at all.

What Makes a Movie Your Favorite by Gerry Orz

July 17th, 2014

LeonardMaltin.Gerry.jpgThe thing that makes a movie someone’s favorite is what they like the most, or what suits their  personalities. Maybe it’s a mixture of classic or modern treatment or maybe it’s a certain actor. For myself, I can’t say “no” to an Adam Sandler comedy or a Speilberg’s adventure! This can actually be a bad thing for critics. Could this make their view of a film ‘foggy’ or allow them to not look carefully at the film and give it a good rating because they are bias toward a certain sensibility? I know that I have struggled with that in my experience as a film critic.

I see these big name critics and wonder if they have a favorite filmmaker or genre or, if they even allow one. For this job, in which there are no hard and fast rules, Hollywood can deem you good or bad for doing certain things. Confusing? It is true. Society may classify Adam Sandler “bad” for not going along with Hollywood and playing by the rules of the industry bHeadshot.GerrySM.jpgut, he is a good producer and comedian and his recent film was a hit. He seems to be getting better and better as the time goes by. However,  in my opinion, everyone have a favorite. It’s human nature which applies, even if you are Mr. Hollywood, that you must like one thing better than the other. What is your favorite type of film?

How Far We’ve Come by Raven Devanney, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

July 11th, 2014

It’s no secret that the film industry has come a long way from where it started. From the first motion picture created by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 using multiple cameras and assembling each individual photograph to create the appearance of A Horse in Motion, hence the title. Next, there was the first film ever shot to be shown to an audience in 1895 at the Berlin WIntergarten festival as part of a program of novelties. The first silent film to be released in America appeared in cinemas in 1903, it was a 12 minute long piece called The Great Train Robbery. Then came a huge break through, the first film with sound, also known as a “talkie,” was released in 1927, directed by Al Jolson. The next major advance in film was the use of color. The first known film with color was an obscure piece released in 1935. However, arguably the most well known film to use color is The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Flash forward 21 years to present-day cinema. It’s filled to the brim with special effects, CGI, incredible editing and killer 3D. But, on June 27th of 2014, director Michael Bay made another leap in film history by being the first to use an IMAX Digital 3D camera in a major motion picture. You can tell by watching the stunning visuals of Transformers: Age of Extinction that it’s the next step in advancing our cinematic experience. We’ve come a long way from where the industry started, and I’m sure early filmmakers would be more than impressed with what has been done with this platform. So, what’s the next major advance in film? Only time will tell.

Glimpse Into The Future by Gerry Orz, age 12

June 30th, 2014

What is it like to see the Earth and its 7 billion humans from 300 miles away? That is probably what 7 billion humans think when they think about space! A dangerous void to which we, humans, travel only for scientific reasons. Recently, NASA ended the space shuttle program is going back to the old capsule method of exploration. I honestly think that soon, travel across the world will be in less than 10 hours. People will get on a plane, the plane will travel over 100 miles above the earth’s surface and then land back on the other side of the world.

That is the next big step in what they call “space tourism.” This is where the public will go space vacations, rides and all of that good stuff. It does lead us to a point though - if we get advanced enough to travel outside of our own solar system, will we reach another civilization? NASA is building a new capsule, Orion. This baby is expected to explore deep space. Remember the satellite that is being sent to Mars? In my opinion, they would like to use it to study radiation. Mars exploration! What will that lead too? Would this be greatest leap since Thomas Jefferson? Or, the greatest fall back since war started? My opinion is, we can make Mars (since humans are pretty certain there are no aliens.) our pollution wasteland.

Earth is getting polluted with acid rain and smog-filled cities so, what can we do? Put it where it won’t affect anyone - on Mars! Mars really has no living creatures on it that would be affected by pollution and nothing on it that would be affected. The radiation on Mars is already high. Perhaps, maybe millions upon millions of years ago, it was like Earth with people destroying their own home planet.

Now, the public can see spaceships for themselves. At the California Science Center, you can see the famous space shuttle, Endeavor. There are other places, such as the Kennedy Space Center, where many exhibits are on display. Space really is an odd thing, where up and down are not relevant, where time really has no zones, where the length is unknown. That is space and maybe space exploration is in our foreseeable future.

Summertime is Movie Time by Keefer Blakeslee, age 14

June 23rd, 2014

It’s summer! The biggest time for movies to come out. No school or homework to worry about. This gives people more time to be able to go to their local movie theater and see a flick. The reason I bring this up is because it reminds me how much I love movies. I grew up watching films on VHS tapes. Yes they still exist! My favorite growing up was “Fantasia.”

The way the animation fits the music always fascinated me. It’s like closing your eyes when you hear music and trying to picture what is happening. All my mom had to do was pop in a movie I liked and I was gone. It’s like picking up a book not being able to put it down for a second.

My parents and I traveled a lot when I was younger. So, to keep me from being bored, my mom got me a portable DVD player to watch movies on the go. I can’t remember any long road trips when I did not have a DVD player with me. Most of my birthday parties were at The Neptune Theater in my home town. When I turned eight, my mom got all my friend together to go watch “Kung Fu Panda.”

I’m difficult to get presents for and my mom knows that. Every birthday, she gives me a new movie to watch. This year she got me “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I now realize where I get my good taste in film. Movies have also helped me get away. When I go through a tough time in my life, I usually put on a comedy to cheer me up. When I am sick and want a sense of adventure I put on “Indiana Jones.”

That’s what movies do; they either take you to a far away land or bring your reality a different perspective. When I watch Jim Carrey’s physical comedy in the “Grinch,” I laugh. And, the death of Bambi’s mom in “Bambi” always brings a tear to my eye.

When I joined KIDS FIRST! Film Critics in 2012, I wanted to express my opinions and work with other kids who enjoy film like I do - not just as an art form, but a memory. Most of my fellow critics and I grew up with movies and when we watch an older film we saw when we were younger, it brings back memories. “Fantasia” still does that for me. In my spare time, after all my summer fun and chores are done, I ask my mom if we can go to the movies. When there are no new movies out, I grab a film I have not seen in my VHS collection. My mom always smiles and says “Yes” to both.

I’m always eager to sit down and watch a movie. Whether it’s good or bad, film will always be a part of my life. In the words of Roger Ebert “Thank you, and I’ll see you at the movies.”

First Female Director, My Personal Heroine by Brianna Hope Beaton

June 17th, 2014

Alice Guy-Blaché set the starting point for female film directors. She represents the first female director in the motion picture industry. Alice Ida Antoinette Guy (maiden name) entered this world on July first 1872 in Paris, France, to parents Mariette and Emile Guy. Following completion of school at Sacred Heart Convent, she accompanied Leon Gaumont as his secretary at a still photography company. After seeing some footage shot by the Lumiere brothers in a private screening, Alice asked Gaumont if she could use his camera to film a story. She directed and produced her first film, The Cabbage Fairy (La Fée Aux Choux) in 1896 at the young age of twenty-three.

She excitedly directed hundreds of short films following The Cabbage Fairy. She worked with Gaumont, Louis Lumiere, Thomas Edison, Gustave Eiffel and many others to make her visions a reality. Alice hired Herbert Blaché, an English cameraman, on her first location shoot. They fell in love, married in 1907 and relocated to America a year after. Alice Guy-Blaché opened her own film studio called Solax and produced nearly a film a week! A year after Alice assigned her husband as president of Solax, he started a rival company. World War I slowed down production for both of them and Alice directed her last film, Tarnished Reputations, in 1920. She and her husband divorced in 1922 and she moved back to France with her children, depending on her daughter for economic income and support. In 1965, she moved back to Mahwah, New Jersey, with her daughter. Alice died in a nursing home on March 24, 1968. She died and vanished from our early film memories.

Barbra Steisand recognizes Alice Guy-Blaché for her work and states that Alice symbolizes a “French film pioneer who invented the director’s job.” She paved a way for female directors everywhere. Pioneering the technology of synching sound to film and creating the first film with an all African-American cast shows how remarkably innovative she was. She did all she wanted to do and understood all the aspects of telling a story. I have so much appreciation for Alice because she showed her aspirations, her ways of thinking, her wants and her passions in all that she did, succeeding in a time when  men commandeered the filmmaking world.

There is a Kickstarter campaign by Pamela Green and Jarik Van Sluijs, to create a film documenting the story of Alice Guy-Blaché. The campaign video is narrated by Jodie Foster.

Childhood Memories of Favorite Disney Movies by Raven Devanney, age 16

June 5th, 2014

There are certain things from childhood we remember. Events, people or things that we can recall and somehow stick with us for life no matter how insignificant they may seem. I have the most random memories from when I was younger, and among those memories I find films scattered about.

I was the type of kid who watched everything. Sure, the Teletubbies were a regular occurrence on my TV, but my parents began showing me classics from an early age. I watched documentaries about the strangest things, definitely topics most 6-year-olds wouldn’t usually consider entertainment. But out of all the films that I have ever watched, classic Disney animations have stuck with me the most from my childhood.

I’m not sure what it is about good old fashion animations, but I will always have time to sit down and watch “Alice in Wonderland,” “Snow White,” “The Aristocats” and so on. I think what makes movies special are the feelings we happen to associate them with, and remembering feelings that you had when you were little is wonderful. The cinema is supposed to be an escape of some sorts, taking you away from the real world. So when I curl up with a good Disney movie it transports me for a brief time back to when everything was so simple. Having a very hectic life that I’m assuming will only get more chaotic with age, an escape, or almost a time machine to simpler times is a life saver.

I remember watching “101 Dalmatians” religiously every time I visited my grandmother. I had every toy to go along with the film and I have the fondest of memories of my grandmother and I playing with our little plastic Dalmatians while watching the film and eating micro-waved popcorn on her fuzzy grey carpet. I also have a deep love for “Lady and the Tramp.” I have always found that film so sweet. I even named my cocker spaniel “Lady” after the leading pup from the film. I had Lady since I was 5-years-old and she traveled the country with me, comforted me when my little heart felt broken, and of course watched dozens of films with me. She passed away earlier this year after a fantastic 11 years with me, so “Lady and the Tramp” is even more sentimental now.  One of my favorite Disney films that probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of Disney is “The Brave Little Toaster.” I remember that film terrified me when I was growing up but, as a child whose best friend was the vampire that lived in my closet, I enjoyed films that scared me. So “The Brave Little Toaster” to this day is on my list of obscure favorite movies (and for some reason it still creeps me out a little).

Because of these memories, and the many others that I associate with just about every Disney film out there, they will always be special to me even when I reach my adult years. I think that’s what makes any film special and what makes it a classic. I know that now, we are constantly bombarded with high tech special effects and stunning visuals, so it’s easy to forget where the film industry started. Even with animated films, things are so much more advanced. You never really see good old fashioned sketch art on the screen any more. It’s always the digital images that you’d see in “Frozen” or “Toy Story.” I think that because of what I’ve grown up watching, I’ll always prefer to watch “Aladdin” or “The Lion King” over a newer animation.

Classic Disney animations will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I know everyone out there has a film, or films, that take them back to the good old days. Whether it’s a Disney movie or an obscure foreign film, childhood cartoon, indie documentary or the Teletubbies, there’s something that warms everyone’s heart. What’s yours?

A Night to Remember - Keefer Blakeslee

May 26th, 2014

The AFI Life Achievement Award is the highest honor in The American Film Institute. It is given to those who have left an impact of legacy in the film business. This year it will be awarded to Jane Fonda on June 5th . I bring this up because it has been a year since KIDS FIRST! gave me the opportunity to report at Mel Brooks AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony where I actually met Mr. Brooks in person. I was on the red carpet and it was the first time in my life that I was speechless. However, I finally broke out of it and interviewed him. During that whole encounter, we shook hands and did not let go - probably because I could not move anything but my mouth. Once we finished talking I said “thank you” and looked into the camera and said, “It’s good to be the kid!” Following that, I attended the ceremony and watched the venerable Martin Scorsese give Mel his award. That is still my favorite moment as a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.  I’m still blown away that they made that possible for me. Mr. Brooks is truly my hero, someone who I admire among all the many wonderful people in the entertainment world. So, thank you again KIDSFIRST! for giving me a night to remember. I have been a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic for more than a year and it just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to see what happens in the year ahead.

Women in Film - by Brianna Beaton

May 21st, 2014

As Americans, and as human beings in the film industry, where would we be today without the women in this industry? They take roles as actresses, directors, producers, screen writers, set designers, makeup artists, costume designers, casting directors and many more. Women add so much by expressing, creating, loving, showing, introducing, molding and pursuing so many different aspects in filmmaking. I want to share with you some of my female heroes - the women that were the first to do things that people only thought men could do. My purpose is to show all the young women interested in filmmaking, or other careers, that you can do it! After all, these women did. They are the pioneers for females in the workplace around the world. They show us through their work (their masterpieces) and their lives that you can do anything if you are passionate about it.  Here are some of my favorite women-in-film role models: Alice Guy-Blache’ -  the first female film director; Janet Gaynor - the first female to win an Oscar; Joanne Woodward - the first female to be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; Elizabeth Taylor -  the first female to be paid one million dollars for a single film. There are many more. I hope you find this as interesting as I do and are inspired to follow the journey of many female artists who are working in the film industry today. I certainly plan to be someone who makes my mark sometime in the future, guided by these outstanding women.

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