Jury Coordination and Notes

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.
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.

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.

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