Jury Coordination and Notes

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.

I love you moms with all my heart - Happy Mother’s Day!

May 14th, 2014

Mother’s day is something special - a day where moms are the ones who should relax, who should have fun. I have twice the fun on Mother’s Day because I have two moms. In the ‘industry,’ people do things to make moms feel appreciated as well. Google glass made a film just for Mother’s Day called “Seeds” - a short 5 minute film. A YouTube group did an interesting experiment. They gathered a group of people and did a survey. “What if you did not get paid. You worked all day, everyday. You have to drive everywhere and be available immediately at any point of the day.” Who would want this job and what type of job it would be? The majority of answers were - it’s a job of being a mother. Another thing Hollywood did is released a comedy called “Mom’s Night Out.” Everyone wanted to do the best for Mother’s Day, but sometimes, you just can’t say it in words how much you want to give, for how great mothers are. Kids can’t get their mothers expensive presents or luxurious vacations that they deserve so it’s hard to find a perfect gift that will clearly say “I love you and appreciate what you do for me every day.” This Mother’s Day, I got my two moms something, small, simple, yet nice. I hope they like it. Many times, kids just give their mothers hugs, saying, “You’re so great.” I couldn’t find a good enough present so I gave them this:

They are  a miracle
They are  a gift
They help us everyday
from December to May.

They drive us places
even though cars make mazes.
They cook, clean and pay for us.
They don’t make us ride the bus.
They pay, all day, from December to May.

They would go from where to the sky is grey
to San Francisco Bay.
All for us,
they are the super hero without a cape,
they are the perfect humans in millions
they would make us 100 crepes!

They are best
better than the rest
I have 2 in my home
that are better than all of Rome!

They are my loves, my moms.
They deserve the world.
The ones that I give my palm
The ones that I want to give the universe to.
I love them so much.
They even are there when I go boo hoo.

Just the softness of their touch,
is comforting.
They are my moms
and they are my role models.
My heroes.
I love you moms with all my heart - Happy Mother’s Day!

Gerry Orz, age 12, comes from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA and has one older sibling, Dennis. He enjoys watching movies and football, cooking and traveling with his family, playing video games and is an avid filmmaker who writes and makes movies with his friends. Gerry’s favorite film is Jack and Jill. His favorite actors are Ellen DeGeneres and Adam Sandler. Ellen because she is amazing, funny, smart and so kind. She inspired Gerry to believe in himself and try to make a difference in the world. As a result, he has produced a number of educational movies and created a non-profit organization called Kids Resource. Adam Sandler is his other favorite actor because “he is an amazing actor and comedian, always stays true to himself.” Gerry is a huge fan of directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and he aspires to become a film director, producer and writer. “I want to make movies that will have a positive impact on today’s youth and will inspire them to follow my footsteps to a better tomorrow.” He is already off to a great start, having produced several films including a short, Day of Silence, that inspired a new bill in CA to proclaim 12/12/12 Bullying Prevention Day. Gerry received many emails thanking him for making that film. “We heard stories where parents believed that my movie saved their child’s life.” On 12/12/12 at 12 p.m., Gerry had followers in six states and four countries joining in a moment of silence. “I plan to expand in coming years and get more people on board to honor 12/12 and work towards making the world a better place.” As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Gerry enjoys learning more about movies and film making and improving his own movies so they can be included in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival.”

Meet Your Film Critic - Keefer Blakeslee

May 8th, 2014

Keefer Blakeslee, age 13, lives in the greater Los Angeles area, part time. He has three older siblings who are all married. His dad passed away six years ago so he and his Mom are enjoying their life together. They play chess, swim, skate, and watch and critique movies together. Keefer likes riding his bike, cooking, watching Nostalgia Critic on the Internet and reading his favorite book “Life Itself: by Roger Ebert.” Keefer loves so many films it’s difficult to pick one. If he had to, it would be The King’s Speech because he could watch it again and again. It has amazing acting and an incredible story. It’s also difficult for him to name a favorite actor but Mel Brooks and Jim Carrey would have to be at the top of the list. “They are both funny and great actors that really know how to capture their audience and make them laugh.” When he grows up, Keefer wants to be an actor, comedian, critic, director, producer and screen-writer. He is most proud of proving to his mom that he deserved moving to California so he could pursue his career. His favorite film critics were Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. “They were so entertaining. I loved listening to their reasoning and watching them bicker. I read Roger Ebert’s film reviews to the day he died.” As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer enjoys being able to speak his own opinion to people who love movies because, “if you’re going to pay to watch a movie, it had best be a good one!” He also found out how much he enjoys writing.

Meet our KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Brianna

May 1st, 2014

Fourteen-year-old Brianna Beaton lives in Clermont, FL with her parents. She has a 23-year-old sister who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her favorite things to do with her parents are play board games, watch TV, and cook. Brianna also likes to read and write stories. You can find Brianna playing tag, swimming and just goofing off with her friends who call her BB. Brianna’s favorite movie is I am Sam. Brianna looks up to actress Drew Barrymore because she started acting young and is the kind of person who doesn’t care what anyone says about her. Brianna wants to be a successful actress and a restaurant owner when she grows up. She also wants to write a fictional novel. She is most proud that she has been performing in theatre plays and won Best Actress, Most Dramatic, and Most Reliable awards in her theatre school. As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Brianna enjoys sharing and expressing her feelings about films through video and/or written reviews. KIDS FIRST! gives her many opportunities to write.

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