Jury Coordination and Notes

Remembering Shirley Temple by Brianna Hope Beaton

April 23rd, 2016

download.jpgFrom an early age, her parents encouraged her to pursue our dreams. They instilled in her the idea to work hard at what she loved doing. Being the youngest nominee for the Oscars at age six, Shirley Temple took her parents advice.

On April 23, 1928, the world welcomed Shirley Jane Temple with open arms in Santa Monica, California. Shirley was an exemplary actress during the Great Depression. When she was just three years old, Shirley acquired a contract with Educational Pictures, which presented her acting in a clump of low-budget movies dubbed “Baby Burlesques.” Her mother enrolled her in dance classes at 3 ½ and her father took the role of her agent and financial adviser. With all this exposure, Fox Film Corporation made a contrShirleytemple.jpgact with Shirley. She was six years old when she appeared in her first Hollywood feature film, Carolina. During this time, she also attended the Westlake School for Girls and made eight other movies with Fox. President Roosevelt called Shirley “Little Miss Miracle” and even stated “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”  By 1940, Shirley already had 43 films to her name. Her bubbly personality on screen made her so loveable and she was basically loved by all. Even today, when people watch her films they are reminded how this little girl made them feel and it brings back happy memories.

As Shirley’s entertainment occupation flickered out, she refocused her labors on a career in public service. From 1969 to 1970, she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Shirley was appointed ambassador to Ghana in 1974. Two years later, she became chief of protocol of the United States, a position she held until 1977. In 1988, Shirley became the only person, to date, to achieve the rank of honorary U.S. Foreign Service officer. In 2005, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.
During all of this time, Temple married John Agar Jr. in 1945, at the age of 17.  They divorced in 1949. During their four years of marriage, Linda Susan was born. In 1950, she married Charles Alden Black, becoming Shirley Temple Black. Two children, Charles and Lori were born of this marriage. Shirley became a widow when Charles died from a bone marrow disease in BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpg2005. Nine years afterwards, on February 10, 2014, Shirley died at age 85 from COPD and pneumonia.images.jpg

I salute Shirley Temple for a lifetime of outstanding achievements as an actor and diplomat. Her legacy is cherished and appreciated by the grown-up and the child in all of us.

What is the Point of Artistic Criticism by Willie Jones

April 5th, 2016

filmcritics.jpgThe actors of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice responded to the overwhelmingly bad reviews of the film by saying that the film is for the audience. Essentially, they were saying that the critics’ opinions don’t matter and that films are made for the enjoyment of the audience. But are they?

A common argument in the artistic community is whether or not artists do what they do for fans or for critics. Many actors will say the fans, but I beg to differ. Fans are important, don’t get me wrong. Their support keeps the art alive and atmospheric and they motivate us. By the same token, they aren’t the ones who etch an artist’s work into history among other works of art. Sure there’s the rare cult classic like Scarface (1983) or The Rocky Horror Picture Show that makes reviewers and critics take a second glance at something, but they are a rarity.

It is now a popular thing for fans to not care about the opinions of critics. If a film or play gets a bad review, it usually won’t stop box office revenue, though fans often tend to agree with the critics. Whereas years ago, critic’s opinions meant much more. Art was validated by the positive reviews of major critics. None of this is to dissuade you from experiencing a piece of art because it gets bad reviews, but I want to bring up the point that perhaps a critic’s opinion weighs more than a casual fan’s.

Why is that? Well, consider this. If you are a painter and you’ve just painted something and put it on the street, would a negative review from an expert mean less than a positive review from a casual fan. See, while artists would like for fans to appreciate their art, there are certain aspects of art that only experts and connoisseurs are truly going to appreciate because of their knowledge. No one has greater respect for artists and their work than those who know what it’s like to create or have the intellect and learning to break apart their craft and evaluate what was attempted.

So, while that cliché action movie may seem great to you, critics hate it because of reasons that, frankly, no normal person cares about. What critics look at, and allow me to use film as an example here, are those categories at the Oscars the casual film buff doesn’t care about. Things such as production design or sound mixing or art direction. Those are things most people don’t care about, but they are things that play great importance in the success of a film. The same thing applies to a play or painting or a piece of music. Experts in those fields, whether they are critics who studied it or artists themselves, see and appreciate things that only they and the creator themselves can appreciate.

So, while casual fans provide the money and fame and other such things, it is connoisseurs of the respective craft whose opinions an artist truly cares about. It is a critic that translates an artist’s work. It is a critic that looks deeper into something and finds the meaning and motivation behind it that cannot be found on pure aesthetic. For example, there’s a scene in Taxi Driver when Travis looks into a cup and it bubbles. To a fan, that scene doesn’t mean much and they may even question it, but to those who’ve studied cinema, they recognize that that shot is an homage to shots used in earlier films for the same reason Scorsese used it. While a fan may fawn over the look of the film and the action and even the acting, it is a savant that fawns over things that an artist wishes his fans could see. Willie1.jpg

There is a scene in Bridge of Spies when Mark Rylance wipes off his palette that seems simple and easy and unsubstantial. But, when I spoke to an actor of over twenty years, he said that was perhaps his favorite moment of the movie. He said the way Rylance pays attention to such detail as he did it, and how motivated he was in wiping the palette was beautiful. That is the difference between the appreciation of art from a fan and from a pundit.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that fans are stupid or unworthy or anything of that sort, I am saying that experts of a certain field have opinions, more often than not, that contain more validity because they are formed with the same knowledge and understanding as that of the creator himself. That is often why artists call themselves misunderstood or are called misunderstood by authorities of their craft. They are misunderstood by the majority, which are fans, yet they’re etched in legendary status by the minority, the mavens.

In conclusion, I believe that the whole point of artistic criticism is to give the artist the understanding they need from the people they need it from. They need fans to enjoy their work, but they need aficionados to relate to and appreciate their process shown through their work.

What Makes a Good Horror Film? By Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

March 29th, 2016

I saw The Witch yesterday and it started me thinking about what makes a great horror film.  There are two primary elements that make up a horror film: shock and suspense. Some horror films are only shock and some are only suspense.  The best films incorporate both.  Hitchcock said that good suspense is created when the viewer is informed of the impending doom and is complicit in the action.  He felt suspense was the more important element because one can close one’s eyes and still feel the spine tingling horror of anticipation.  But a viewer can close his or her eyes at the jump scares and not really feel anything.

The Witch primarily utilizes the suspense factor.  The film is set in Puritan times in New England.  Due to religious heresy, a family is banished to the wilds outside the settlement where they must start anew.  The director, Robert Eggers chose to have the actors speak in old English which made it atmospheric.  He uses everything in nature to create suspense, such as a black goat, a rabbit with bulging eyes and the sound of rustling leaves.  There are only a few jump scares towards the end of the movie. The brilliance of The Witch is how the suspense is built using period details, old language and religious mythology so well that you feel as if you are part of that world.
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The Conjuring is one of the best horror films that I have seen.  It uses suspense and jump scares in equal measure, which makes it a truly great horror film.  In contrast, the Insidious series mostly uses jump scares. At the end of the day, I feel that suspense is the actual horror and not some cheap shock jump scare.  Even though the jump scares are terrifying they are not really scary in a horrific way.  They just scare you for one second unlike suspense, which is always lingering.

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to making a great horror film besides suspense and jump scares.  Music is very important for building suspense. I’m thinking of Psycho and Jaws. Make-up is also another element, which adds to the fright factor.  And, humor can be used to good effect in horror movies. Good examples are American Werewolf in London and Nightmare on Elm Street series. After researching and writing this blog, I’m excited that there are so many more terrific horror and suspense films to experience.

Super Hero Overdose by Keefer C. Blakeslee

March 22nd, 2016

Superheroes.jpgSpring! Birds chirping, flowers blooming, people carting their Kleenex around because of all the pollen in the air (an unenthused yay). With the new season upon us and new movies opening in theaters, you can’t help but notice the plethora of comic book based films. In March, an epic battle between two of the most iconic heroes of their universe hits the screen. May brings an epic battle between two of the most iconic heroes of their universe. Wow! Where does Hollywood get its ideas from? In all seriousness, I’m not the only one to point out that two superhero vs. superhero movies steal the spotlight a month apart. Speaking of which, X-Men Apocalypse comes out in May as well. That means three comic book films open in the next few months. That doesn’t include Deadpool which opened last month, Suicide Squad which comes out in August or Doctor Strange which opens in November. Six comic book films take the spotlight this year. You might think that I would be jumping up and down from excitement. While my inner geek feels ecstatic, I can’t help but also feel overwhelmed.

Look at it this way. Consider my favorite dessert - chocolate. I love eating it at the occasional birthday party or maybe a wedding. When I eat cake once in a while, I enjoy every bite. When I finish it, I feel fulfilled because it’s a rare gift. However, imagine that I wake up one morning and my dessert choice is chocolate cake and I can eat it every day. It sounds like a dream come true, but as the weeks pass by I start to feel sick. I want to have something different for dessert. That anticipation for creamy chocolate goodness is gone because I have made myself fat and grown weary of it. Now I’m not saying my love for comic book films has disappeared. I still plan to see Captain America: Civil War and, get that adrenaline rush every time Tony Stark suits up. However, the hype of anticipating a new comic book movie has diminished.

As much as I hate when a trailer comes out and I have to wait for a film to be released, it creates an excitement that makes me want to see the film. When Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, the film ended with Han Solo being frozen in suspended animation. The next film, Return of the Jedi, didn’t come out until 1983. The three-year wait allowed audiences to get excited. Same thing happened with Avengers. We had multiple films leading up to the grand assembling of our favorite Marvel heroes. The power of making your audience wait is strong.

When Hollywood knows that they have a hit, they try to do everything in their power to exploit every ounce of it. Hollywood knows that audiences love comic book based films. The films they push out please audiences, but the mass production of comic book films, I believe, will spiral out of control. The more audiences want comic book films, the faster Hollywood makes the movies. The faster they make the films, the sloppier the films become. Then, it doesn’t matter how many people in capes appear on screen because the story behind that masked character will be forced and rushed.

The reason I feel frustrated with this is because I know that super hero films can be great! I understaKeefer.Superhero.pngnd some people disagree with me (Willlie! I still respect you, sir), but comic book based films contribute a lot to the movie industry, not just financially but artistically. I’ve said this before, movies are supposed to bring you into new worlds and create interesting characters. Comic book films create a connected universe where you can place these super powered characters in a room and the script creates itself. They have built a following that attracts both moviegoers and comic book enthusiasts from around the world. These films serve as examples of the power of filmmaking. I just hope Hollywood realizes, soon, the concept of quality over quantity.

Who is most important in making a film? by Gerry O.

March 7th, 2016

Professional films have a huge number of people working together to make the production come to life. Usually, the number people involved in a feature story production is around 500, but some films stick out. For example, Iron Man 3 listed credits for over 3,000 people - the size of a small town – who contributed in making this two-hour film. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who is the center of that large crowd? Who makes it all happen?”

There is a Director of Photography who sets up the camera shots. The director and assistant director envision the whole thing and assign each team their tasks. The producer takes care of a lot of the business side of the film. Actors make the film’s characters come to life. Editors assemble the whole thing and enhance the beauty aspects. Hair and makeup artists do the same to people. Writers give the actors the blueprint for what is expected from those characters, from dialogue to stage direction. Of course, there are many more people involved who help organize everything, build sets, place props on the sets and bring lunch to everyone!Gerry.O.jpg

So, WHO would you think is the most important key person in all of this organized chaos? Most would say director or actors, but really, a film isn’t made because of actors or directors, it is made to tell a story. All these stories are made for people to enjoy and learn from. Yes, movie lovers, DVD collectors and film historians are really the most important.  They are the reason for the film’s creation and, at the end of the day, are the reason films are still so huge today. Without an audience, none of these films would be made.

DC vs. Marvel: Which is the Best Comic Empire? By Clayton Pickard

February 29th, 2016

marvel_vs_dc.pngIn my opinion, DC clearly wins the DC vs. Marvel debate. DC has more relate-able, plausible, believable superheroes. It also has more cache. It is truly the darling of hip, nerdy, collector types. DC is also the underdog of the two companies, which makes me like it even more. They make less money than Marvel, put out fewer films and their properties, except for Batman and Superman, are less ubiquitous. However, DC is less PC! Marvel is the more “equal opportunity” comic empire. They use more women and people of color as character.

DC was founded in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson and is now a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc. DC includes the superheroes Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and much more. DC focuses a lot on TV where they now make a substantial portion of their money. They have four amazing TV shows out right know: Green Arrow, The Flash, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Each of these series includes a substantial back-story of the characters and how they got their powers. I am currently watching two of the four shows, Arrow and Flash. I am addicted to both of these shows and can’t wait for each new episode. I get so deep into these shows that I feel as if I am one of the characters. Based on my friends’ opinions, Jessica Jones and Daredevil are also amazing.

Marvel was founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman. It was taken over by Stan Lee in 1961. He is now 93 years old and marginally involved in the company. (He does appear in a cameo in each film, which you have to look carefully to find). Disney bought Marvel in 2009 and hasClayton.jpg been mining the properties on the big screen ever since. Marvel properties include The Avengers (Iron man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow), Spiderman, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy and The X-men. 

Now that DC and Marvel are both owned by huge media conglomerates, lots of effort has been put into bringing their characters to the big screen. In 2016, Marvel has Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War and X-men Apocalypse coming out. In late 2015, they released Avengers Age of Ultron.  DC is releasing Batman vs. Superman and The Suicide Squad this year. They released DC Legends of Tomorrow late last year.  I just saw Deadpool last week and it was amazing! It was action-packed and very humorous.  And, I am really stoked to see Captain America: Civil War and The Suicide Squad this summer.

Although I think DC is the better comic empire, you can tell I am still a big Marvel fan. I think we are really lucky that we have two major comic companies bringing us terrific, filmed entertainment. In both the movies and TV, it seems as if there is a comic culture renaissance happening right now.

Critics: Negative or Positive? By Keefer C.Blakeslee

February 23rd, 2016

filmcritics.jpgMost people our now talking about their  Oscar predictions, diversity issues and so on. I want to take this opportunity to talk about the purpose of criticism.  One of our newer KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Ryan and I recently reviewed Splash Entertainment’s first feature, animated film Norm of the North. Both of us gave the movie a fair review. Sadly, some people didn’t favor our reviews because we showed positive vibes about the film. I want to address this because, I need closure on this and it’s an interesting subject about film criticism.  

 

Oddly enough, there was a negative response to Norm of the North that was gigantic. I have given negative reviews for movies in the past for Seventh Son and the infamous Fantastic Four. Why did I give those films bad reviews and give Norm of the North a cleaner slate? Norm of the North was produced is by an independent company and distributed by Lions Gate. The other two films were made by big studios - Fox and Universa;). I expect more from bigger studios because they have bigger resources, financial and other. While Norm of the North is not the best film, it’s a start and the studio is getting its chops. I say this as a fellow filmmaker. If you look at my first videotaped reviews and short films you would think they are terrible. Yet I continue to work on my craft and grow. I’m constantly told by other filmmakers that, no matter how bad or silly your movie idea is, go film it.  Splash Entertainment got a chance and they took it.  Even though they did not hit one out of the Ball Park, they got to play the game with the big boys. I hope this does not discourage Splash Entertainment from making movies and that they learn from the criticism and keep building.

 

This brings me to the subject of criticism, specifically with films. The situation with Norm of the North reminded me how people today review films with a bitter tone. What is a film critic? If you look it up on Google, you will see: “a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something.” I used to believe in this dKeefer.2014.5.jpgefinition. Film critics watch films and complain about how bad they are. In fact, I had a problem in the beginning of my work as a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic of not giving useful reviews for most of the films I watched. What I did was nitpick. Now, I have learned that the job of a critic is so much more. Critics are given a bad wrap, usually associated with highbrow aristocrats who believe in the glory days of cinema and do nothing but whine. While there still are some of those types around, it’s important to remember that critics are here for the people. We recommend movies and help guide people in the world of cinema. In the end, the true critic is you, the viewer. Critics are a reference. It’s up to you, the viewer to create your own opinions and beliefs about films and not let other people, critics or otherwise, make decisions for you.

 

The thing I needed to remember, and I realized this more while becoming a filmmaker, is that it’s hard to create any movie. There is pre-production, production and post-production. It’s all long and complicated. That does not mean that bad films deserve a pass. By any means there are some horrible films out there that deserve the rating they get. I’m learning that, as a teen studying what it takes to be a film maker, I have become more open minded and aware when it comes to reviewing films. Next time you see a film and tear it apart, ask yourself, could I have made a better movie? If the answer is no then don’t be so rough on the movie. If the answer is yes then you go out there and film a movie yourself. Hopefully I’ll want to give your film 5 out of 5 stars.

Whoopie Goldberg, A Force of Her Own! by Brianna Hope Beaton

February 16th, 2016

WhoopiGoldberg.jpgWith the Oscars coming up right around the corner and this being black history month, I’m striving to mix the two. The first female to solo host the Oscars, as well as be the first African American to host the Oscars, is Whoopi Goldberg.

This award-winning comedian, actress and human rights advocate, was born on November 13, 1955 in New York City. Originally named, Caryn Elaine Johnson, Whoopi Goldberg and her younger brother Clyde, were raised by their single mother, Emma. Ms. Goldberg changed her name when she determined that her given name was too boring. She dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and was unknowingly suffering from dyslexia. She is best known for her proficient representations in both comedic and dramatic roles, as well as her outstanding work in the Hollywood film industry as an African-American woman. During her stay in San Francisco, Ms. Goldberg was awarded a Bay Area Theater Award for her portrayal of comedienne Moms Mabley in a one-woman show.  In 1983, she starred in the extremely popular The Spook Show. Among her most touching and characteristically opposing creations were “Little Girl” and “Fontaine“. Director, Steven Spielberg cast Ms. Goldberg in the principal female role of his 1985 production of The Color Purple, a film that went on to earn ten Academy Awards and five Golden Globe nominations. Ms. Goldberg received an Oscar nomination and her first Golden Globe Award, for Best Actress. Ever since “The Color Purple,” Ms. Goldberg has appeared in more than 80 film and television productions. Her performance as Oda Mae Brown in the 1990 film Ghost led to a number of landmark achievements. She won the 1991 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the second African-American woman to win an Oscar. The role also acquired Goldberg her second Golden Globe, as well as the Black Entertainer of the Year Award from the NAACP and the Excellence Award at the Women in Film Festival. In 1992, Whoopi initiated her own television talk show, The Whoopi Goldberg Show. Featuring Whoopi in one-on-one interviews with well-known political and Hollywood celebrities, the show ran for 200 episodes until 1993. In 1994, 1996 and 1999, Ms. Goldberg hosted the Academy Awards, making her the first woman to do so. Whoopi Goldberg became a moderator of the daytime talk show The View on September 4, 2007. During her time on The View, Ms. Goldberg sought out other creative openings. She went behind the scenes to direct the 2013 documentary “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley”. She also appeared on several episodes of the TV musical Glee and was among the famous faces in the collection cast of Big Stone Gap (2015). An author of both children’s and adult fare, she gives out relationship advice with her 2015 book, If Someone Says ‘You Complete Me,’ Run!BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpg

“We’re born with success. It is only others who point out our failures and what they attribute to us as failure.” –Whoopi Goldberg

I admire Whoopi Goldberg because she has been in some of my favorite movies and she continues to break barriers.  I aim to be as memorable as her with the all the contributions she has made to her craft and society.

Oscars So White By Willie Jones

February 2nd, 2016

racist_oscars.jpgSpike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith will be boycotting this year’s Academy Awards. Why? Because, for the second consecutive year, all 20 of the acting nominees are white. Even Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African American, has expressed her disappointment with the lack of diversity in the nominees. She’s said she was “heartbroken and frustrated” by the lack of diversity. Actor David Oyelowo, who many feel was snubbed last year for his performance as Martin Luther King in Selma, said that the nominations don’t reflect him or “this nation.”

As a black actor who is a connoisseur of the Academy Awards and one who is well aware of the lack of minority recognition in its history, I have an opinion on this. But it’s one that has nothing to do with The Academy. First, I’d like to say that this isn’t just about black actors. This is about ALL minority actors who are left out, including Hispanics and Asians. With that said, the problem is the not The Academy. It is simply a byproduct of the issue. Just looking at this year and the acting categories, the biggest snubs are: Michael B. Jordan in Creed, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, Benicio Del Toro in Sicario and Will Smith in Concussion. Can you see the problem in that? I’ve only listed four names. Last year, the big snub was David Oyelowo in Selma. That’s just one name.

Here’s what I’m getting at. The Academy can only nominate what they’re given to nominate. An outrage cannot be put at them because they only (realistically) had those options. If you consider just four performances against the other 20+ potential white candidates, the odds aren’t in their favor. I believe that the fault does not lie solely with the Academy, but with the industry itself. They are NOT one in the same. The Academy nominates what the industry gives it.  The industry is the machine cranking out these contenders so it is the root of the issue. It isn’t cranking out enough diverse contenders. The blame begins with the directors, producers and casting directors who choose who stars in what. If you’ll notice, of those snubbed, only one didn’t have to be black. By that I mean that their character could have been played by anyone. The point I am trying to make is that a lot of minority nominees play real life people such as slaves or other roles that MUST be played by a person in a minority.Awards3.jpg

But here’s what will make the difference. Take, for example, Michael Shannon in 99 Homes, a performance that garnered quite a lot of critical praise. His character could have been played by a minority actor such as Javier Bardem or Ken Watanabe. But with roles like that, casting directors often select a white actor. Why? I won’t even begin to try to answer that question.

Let’s look at the directors who write the films they direct. For example, take Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, a film written and directed by him. It was not adapted from any book or real event. It came fresh from the mind of Damien. If you’ve seen Whiplash, you know that Terrence Fletcher could have easily been played by a black or Asian person. Am I saying Damien Chazelle is a racist? No. Am I saying he has something against minorities or casting them? No. What I’m saying is that casting white actors is the norm.  Without any statistical proof, it seems that most writers are more likely to write about what they know or write for people similar to themselves. When Damien Chazelle wrote Whiplash, chances are he wrote it with a white guy in mind. That’s not a bad thing nor is he to be at fault for that. It just brings up another point: The backbone of every film is a script. Nothing is done without. It is THE first step and sets the ball rolling. It tells what and who is needed to bring the work to life. If writers write for who and what they know best, then I suppose the deepest root of the issue begins with the writers. With that being the case, in order to change things we need to support minority Awards2.jpgwriters to write about their own lives and the world they live in.

Let’s look at another side to that. Suppose any writer of any ethnicity writes a story starring people who are racially ambiguous. Those parts have to be cast. Directors, producers and casting directors most often do the casting. They cast actors who they know best. They tend to be most comfortable with actions who are of the same race as they are. And, though they may not be racist, are more likely to be comfortable working with people who are most like them. So, another issue is the need to have more minority casting directors, directors and producers. Let’s support them and push them up through the ranks.

In short, the issue with the “White Oscars” isn’t just The Academy. It’s the people who are supplying the Academy. It’s the lack of minority filmmakers with power. It’s the lack of films about or containing minorities. It’s the lack of box office results attached to those films. Thank goodness for the likes of Ang Lee, Denzel Washington, Javier Bardem, Morgan Freeman and others who have bridged the gap and proven that minority actors can be acclaimed and recognized. But they won’t be around forever and there aren’t enough of them. Sure, Denzel and Freeman may get the roles that are racially ambiguous, but what about the others? Look at Chadwick Boseman. His major roles have been playing Jackie Robinson and James Brown and he’s about to play Thurgood Marshall. All those roles HAVE to be played by an African American. Why not cast him as Mark Watney in The Martian or Mike Shiner in Birdman? Who says Don Cheadle couldn’t have played Birdman himself? I’ll tell you who. It’s the directors, the casting directors, the writers and the producers. Ironically enough, the writer, director and producers of Birdman (who won an Oscar for doing all of the aforementioned) is a minority himself. Yet there isn’t a single minority in a major role in that film.

We need filmmakers like that giving minorities opportunities. Don’t get me wrong. Tyler Perry does a lot for the black film community. But those are not films that will garner an actor the respect that the Academy can give. WWillie1.jpge need filmmakers like Scorsese, O. Russell, Allen, Nolan, Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson and many other acclaimed directors to push for casting minorities in their films. John Singleton and Spike Lee can’t do it alone.

To quote George Clooney who made a statement earlier about this issue, “There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars. By the way, we’re talking about African Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this.” Yes Mr. Clooney, Hollywood must get better at this.

The Boundless Creativity of Studio Ghibli by Clayton Pickard

January 26th, 2016

StudioGhiblijpg.jpgMove over Pixar!  Studio Ghibli is considered the premier animation house by many cinephiles. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of Studio Ghibli which was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Yasuyoshi  Tokuma, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. Studio Ghibli has released twenty-two feature films so far. The first film they made was Nausicaa: The Valley of the Wind in 1984, but the first Ghibli film released in the U.S. was My Neighbor Totoro, in 1993. I admire Studio Ghibli for their visual creativity, complexity and nuance. Plus there is always an important theme in each film. I also revere the Japanese studio because of all the strong women protagonists they include in every movie.CastleintheSky.jpg

My three favorite Studio Ghibli films are Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. They are all directed by Hayao Miyazaki and all three deal with important themes.  Castle in the Sky is influenced by Gulliver’s Travels and deals with the greed and power of totalitarian government. Spirited Away is more abstract, mysterious and mesmerizing. It is a coming-of-age film that definitely makes comments about greed and environmental pollution. It won the Oscar for Best Animated FWhisperoftheHeart.jpgeature in 2003 and is #30 on IMDB’s Best Films of all time list.  Last, Princess Mononoke is the strongest conservation film in the Ghibli oeuvre. They are all beautifully animated, have great voice-overs and terrific soundtracks.

My mother is partial to Whisper of the Heart by Yoshifumi Kondo, The Cat Returns by Hiroyuki Morita and The Tale of Princess Kaguya by Isao Takahata. In addition to Princess Kaguya, Isao Takahata directed the wonderful Grave of the Fireflies, which won two awards at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in 1994.  It is also rated #62 on IMDB’s best films of all time. The Tale of Princess Kayuga garnered tons of international awards and was nominated for an Oscar last year for Best Animated Feature.  My mother loves the charm and lyricism of these films. Again, all three have strong female protagonists.

I have seen 18 out of the 22 features by Studio Ghibli and I am looking forward to sOnlyYesterday.jpgeeing the other four. One of those four, Only Yesterday, was recently released in the US.  It was directed by Isao Takahata in 1991,  but is only now getting its U.S. distribution.

Gotta run guys.  I’ve got to make the 4:35 showing of Only Yesterday at IFC center!

Clayton.jpgBy Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

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