Jury Coordination and Notes

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

One Hundred Years of Film by Gerry Orz

January 19th, 2016

Cineorama_camera.jpgThe year 1888 may not seem too important. It has three 8’s in it! This is the year the first movie camera came to life. 138 years later, we now have upgraded from a few frames per second to a standard 24 frames per second for motion pictures.

Along the way, we discovered ways to add color and music to films and decided to create stories using this mysterious equipment. We learned to add editing techniques that took hours to create, such as a title displaying what the person is saying! You’d think that would be it right? No. We then added speech, but let’s not rush ahead.

A popular art called animation that existed through flipping pictures and moving plates, discovered this strange thing called “film” and combined forces. In 1900, these two arts came together to form the first filmed animation. Amazing huh? Couldn’t get any better? But, it did. Genius directors figured out they could color the frames and do things to them to add effects and color. They kept improving cameras with better sound and better visual quality. Eventually, they figured out a way to not have to spend weeks coloring each scene and just let the good old camera slave for them. These enhancements in cameras were unbelievable.

SNOWWHITE.jpgYou wouldn’t believe it could get better but again, it did. In the early 1930s some crazy man decided to do something everyone thought was impossible, a dumb idea, and one that would ruin his career. However, this idea caused his career to flourish and he created one of the largest companies in the world. This man’s name is Walt Disney and his passion drove him to create the first color feature animated film called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

However, people were tired of having to drive or walk to the theater so, in the 1920s we got television! Now people got to watch shows, movies and more, right in their own living room. How fun! For a while, nothing happened that is worth mentioning. The sound improved, the film editing got easier, the picture quality got MUCH and I mean MUCH better. We have seen some pretty cool movies such as Gone With The Wind and some random movie called Star Wars A New Hope, Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and a few others.

Animation took a huge leap since its birth in Snow White. Directors started using something called stop motion animation, which made the illusion of things, like clay and bricks move around! Then, along came digital cameras, which moved away from bulky film. This allowed for digital editing software, special effects and the next generation of animation - CGI, or computer generated graphics. We FILM.JURASSIC.JPGfirst really saw this in Jurassic Park, with its amazingly realistic digital dinosaurs and in the late 1990s, we got a film completely created on a computer, Toy Story. Audiences stored movies and TV shows on videotapes and then DVDs, which had better quality and were less bulky!

Next, we got Blu-Ray, with even more vibrant colors and high definition images. Imax, with its 70mm film came into theaters, displaying films on extremely large screens in very clear quality. 3D and 4D came next, 3D making the picture jump out to you in 3 dimensional imagery and 4D allowing you to “smell” what’s going on in the film. Next, audiences decided to follow the trend of boycotting theaters as the industry released 3D TVs, and soon, curved 4K smart TVs that allows you to watch thHeadshot.GerrySM.jpgeater quality imagery from your couch, bed or on your phone!

Now, we wait for the future – for better cameras and more affordable ones. The entertainment industry continues to surprises us. Who knows, maybe you will be the next one to build an 8K TV or a hovering camera that can record in all spectrums. The future is mysterious and also, exciting!

Don Bluth, The Animator Awakens by Keefer B.

January 12th, 2016

DonBluth.jpgA new year and a fresh beginning. With 2016 here, it’s hard not reminiscence about 2015 and a lot has happened. Jon Stewart and David Letterman left their shows. We said farewell to Spock. And the USA finally passed marriage equality. Then there are all the extraordinary films that came out. One being a certain anticipated Sci-fi film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens (all the Star Wars fans scream femininely). Yes, this film created a lot of excitement for movie goers. However, that’s not my subject for today’s blog. A lot of the praise for this film came from the fact that it brought the original vibe that many of the fans loved from episodes 4 through 6 and also added fresh material for a new generation of audience members. Not only has the Force Awakened but so has legendary animation director Don Bluth. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, here is some background information.

Bluth touched audiences in the 80s and 90s. He was originally an animator for Disney and worked on RobinDonBluth2.jpg Hood, The Rescuers and was director of animation for Pete’s Dragon.

When he as 42, Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and nine other Disney animators started their own animation studio called Don Bluth Productions. The studio’s first film was The Secret of NIHM in 1982. The film was an adaptation of the book “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM”. This is my favorite film by Don Bluth. It captures the wonder and mystery of both science and nature. From there, Bluth has made films with producer Steven Spielberg who needs no introduction. The two made the films An American Tail and The Land Before Time. Bluth made several films after that. His last one being Titan A.E. in 2000. Bluth went on to do other animation jobs but has sadly has not made a film since.

Much like Star Wars, greatness can never stay down. On December 1, 2015, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman started an Indiegogo campaign to create Dragon’s Lair the Movie based on the groundbreaking 80s laser disk arcade game that Don Bluth designed.

The game allows you to control a cartoon-animated character and your actions determine the outcomDonBluth4.jpge of the game. It already looked like an animated film so it makes sense to finally make it into one. I don’t mean to make this blog a shameful plug but, if you want to donate and support this extraordinary dreamer, please do.

I’m excited for three reasons. First, I heard that Bluth and Goldman plan to use hand drawn animation in this film. I have nothing against CGI but, it is Bluth’s traditional style and there is a certain beauty when it comes to hand drawn animation. Second, Bluth is back! It’s like having Harrison Ford and Chewbacca flying the Millennium Falcon again after all these years. You get this tingling sensation. I want to see Bluth return with his beautiful animation and amazing characters. TKeefer.2014.5.jpghird and most important, a new generation of audiences will be exposed to Don Bluth.

Bluth’s films are unique because they treat kids with intelligence, giving them stories with deeper meanings and themes. The Land Before Time tackles the issues of prejudice between different species and The Secret of NIHM gives kids the theme of science vs. nature. These types of messages are not easy to portray to kids. Bluth mixes these thought provoking messages with memorable characters and magnificent animation. He has created a legacy that will live on forever and now, that legacy is expanding. His return gives me high hopes for the new year.

Actresses We Lost in 2015 By Brianna Hope Beaton

January 5th, 2016

Anita-Ekberg_2287191b_2.jpgSince we are in the first week of 2016, I wanted to write something regarding and commemorating some of the actresses that lost their lives in 2015. I would like to begin the new year honoring and showing respect to those who made us smile, laugh, cry, scowl, hide and rejoice. Thank you for all your contributions!

Maureen O’Hara, an Irish Actress and singer, passed away on October, 24, 2015 at the age of 95. “Every star has that certain something that stands out and compels us to notice them. As for me I have always believed my most compelling quality to be my inner strength, something I am easily able to share with an audience.  I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I never thought my looks would have anything to do with becoming a star. Yet it seems that in some ways they did.”

Catherine Coulson, known for her role as Log Lady, in the 90s show Twin Peaks, passed away from cancer on September 28, 2015 at the age of 71. “I don’t think I really possess the log. I think the log possesses me.”

Silent Film Actress Jean Darling, known for the role of Jean on Our Gang when she was four, passed away on September, 4, 2015 at the age of 93. “The crossover to talkies was just idiocy on the part of the producers.” Judy Carne (Joyce Audrey Botterill), an English Actress best remembered for the phrase “Sock it to me!” on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, passed away on September, 3, 2015 at the age of 76. “Sock it to me!”

Yvonne Joyce Craig, an American ballet dancer and actress best known for her role as Batgirl in the 1960s television series Batman, passed away on August 17, 2015, due to cancer at the age of 78. “I haven’t collected memorabilia. I am not a person who lives in the past”

Amanda Peterson, an American actress known for her role as Cindy Mancini in the 1987 comedy film Can’t Buy Me Love, passed away on July 3, 2015 at the age of 43. “I just love to act. I like to get away, totally play a different character, someone you can get really involved in knowing. I’ve gotten really involved in some characters and written down little summaries of where they live and what their families are like.”

Anne Meara, known for her comedy with her husband, passed away on May, 23, 2015 at the age of 85. “I was glad he got us to be a comedy team, because then we weren’t just waiting for the agent to call, we traveled with our own stuff.”

Mary Ellen Trainer, known for her role as Dr. Stephanie Woods in the Lethal Weapon series, passed away on May, 20, 2015 at the age of 62.

Elizabeth Wilson, known for her Tony award in the play Stick and Bones, passed away on May, 10, 2015, at the age of 94. “Postmodernism refuses to privilege any one perspective and recognizes only difference, never inequality, only fragments, never conflict.”

Ellen Albertini Dow, known for her role in The Wedding Singer, passed away on May, 4, 2015, at the age of 101. “I don’t act up unless the music plays. When I dance, I’m completely different”

Grace Lee Whitney, known for her role as Yeoman Janice Rand on the original Star Trek series from 1966 - 1969, passed away on May, 3, 2015 at the age of 85. “My life is happy, joyous, free, sober and saved, and a lot of fun too. I have a lot of fun”

Suzanne Crough, known for her role as Tracy Partridge on The Partridge Family, passed away on April, 27, 2015 at the age of 52. “If I want something, I go after it.”

Jayne Meadows, known for her versatility for Broadway and the big screen, passed away on April, 26, 2015 at the age of 95. “The best people I know have had a lot of obstacles to overcome.”BriannaHopeBeaton2.jpg

Alberta Watson, known for her role as Madeline on the cable series La Femme Nikita, passed away on March 21, 2015, due to cancer, at the age of 60.” If I’ve learned anything in this career it’s that you have to hold on to the wisdom you’ve earned and to use it in your work. I bring an authenticity and experience in my work now that only comes with age and time.”

Anita Ekberg, known for her role in La Dolce Vita, passed away on January 11, 2015 at the age of 83. “I have loved, cried, been mad with happiness. I have won and I have lost”.

Donna Douglas, an American Actress and singer, known for her role as Elly May Clampett in CBS’s The Beverly Hillbillies, passed away on January, 1, 2015, due to cancer at the age of 82. “Back then, it was more or less we couldn’t change a line in our script. We weren’t allowed to change lines. Today, actors change everything and won’t do parts. It’s very different today. Back then, the producers were in charge. Today actors are more in charge.”

Thanks ladies for all your hard work. You will be missed.

Are R Rated Films Suitable For 15 And 16 Year Olds? by Clayton Pickard

December 22nd, 2015

RRatings.jpgAs a new KIDS FIRST! Blogger, I thought for my first blog that I’d be really controversial and write about R rated movies that may be suitable for teens age 15 and up. Many people may disagree with me, but I think many R rated films are important for teens to watch with their parents or another mature adult. They are intelligent, well written and challenging. Often they are coming-of-age movies or about timely subject matter we are studying in school. Fun Movie Fact: Since the 90s, 14 of 21 Best Picture winners have been rated R.

Looking at the Oscar nominees and winners from last year, I have chosen a few films that stand out to me because of their well written screenplays and intelligence. Let us start with last year’s best picture winner, Birdman. It is a very creative and inspiring movie that shows the downside of fame. Then there is Boyhood, which I think should have won Best Picture. It is one of the best movies I have seen in my life! It follows a young boy through his childhood into adulthood. The most amazing aspect of the movie is that the child/adult is played by the same actor. The film took 12 years to make, so the filmmaker could follow this one actor as he grows up. Another great R rated film from last year is Whiplash. The story of a teenage drummer enrolled in a very rigorous music school, Whiplash drives you to the edge of your seat with great suspense and emotional anticipation. The whimsical whodunit, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is the funniest nominee among last year’s Oscars. Being a Wes Anderson film, it is one of the most creative movies on the planet. Teens should see it for its inventiveness, attention to detail and art direction. American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is a worthy R rated film for teens because of its historical relevance. It is an incredibly emotional, sad story of an American sniper in Iraq, who has to make dire choices on a daily basis.

Clayton.jpgIn terms of 2015, the only worthwhile R rated film I have seen so far is The Big Short. This film is about the stock market crash of 2008 and the savvy investors who bet against the American housing market. Considered a black comedy, it is a dense, intellectual film that warrants another screening. The other R rated films from this year that I intend on seeing are The Danish Girl, Chi Raq, Macbeth, Spotlight and The Revenant. Stay tuned for my second blog when I will discuss some of these films.

Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

What Is The Point Of Exploring Space by Gerry O.

December 15th, 2015

Mars.jpgToday, I am going to get away from discussing Hollywood, movies and entertainment in general. I want to take a look at something that movies like to talk about, something that lately has been occupying everyone’s attention - space exploration. In the mid 1900s we had a space race with Russia and other countries to get out of the atmosphere. The U.S. got to the moon first, but Russia got to space first. I guess that might be called a tie. Now, what if I told you it is happening again?

NASA has made plans to go to Mars, which is almost a four-year mission. And, they aren’t the only ones interested. In United States, quite a few independent parties are keen on getting people to space as well. Other countries are also trying to get some of their people onto the big red ball. It makes you think, why explore space? I mean, we have so many problems on our cozy little blue ball called Earth. Why not just focus on fixing global warming, starvation and the education issues of future generations? Well, eventually our cozy little blue ball will become a bit too little. Our population right now is 7 billion. In 2023 we will hit 8 billion. In 2041, we will hit 9 billion. In 2062, we will hit 10 BILLION people on planet Earth. This may seem like some random number. “Yeah, 10 billion humans are alive, wahoo!” is what you are probably thinking. But that is not the case. At the moment millions of people here on Earth are starving. If we hit 10 billion as a worldwide population, the Earth’s resources will not be able to support all of us. It won’t just be people in Africa, or China or the United States, all of us will be hungry. Not only that, but land will get tighter, water supply will go down and there will be fewer and fewer forests. Earth will be like a sponge that we have squished out all the water out of.

LeonardMaltin.Gerry.jpgThis is why it is so important to study space, not only to look upon our own planet better, but to explore potential a new place to live. Because eventually, whether we’re looking at land, or food, or water, or power or wood, we will run out. Soon, we will need some of the population to go somewhere else. The best option in our Solar System, at this point, is Mars - the red, attractive planet that seems so desolate and pointless, with just a reddish rock here and there. Its surface resembles the desserts of Nevada, only they cover a whole planet. Now we know that Mars not only has water, it used to have quite a bit of it. All those crusts and channels you see in pictures of Mars? That used to be water. Hopefully by 2062, when we do hit 10,000,000,000 people, we will have already converted a large part of Mars into a “New Earth.” Now imagine that?

Editors: The Silent Directors By Keefer C.Blakelee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

December 8th, 2015

FilmEditing.jpgI am attending an art school under the conservatory Film and Television. It is an academy where we study the art of making films and television. V. I mention this because recently I have been taking an editing class. When I first started the class I looked at editing as a necessity to know but I honestly thought the job was simply about putting scenes together - just paste, cut, splice, dissolve and that’s it. However, as I learn more about editing and edit my own projects, I have gained a new appreciation for editing as an art form. It dawned upon me that editing not only creates the pace of the film but also the atmosphere. Since taking this class, I look at films differently. I notice the cuts, splices and the overall flow of the film. For example, when I watched Good Morning Vietnam, starring the late Robin Williams, I noticed editing techniques that make the film more enjoyable. The editor of the film was Stu Linder. He was able match the films pace with Robin Willam’s quick-witted dialogue through the magic of editing. My favorite scene is when William’s plays Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” The peaceful song is played while we see the violence taking place on the battlefield. Linder’s beautiful editing allows the movie to create a slow and dramatic moment. Scenes such as that really demonstrate the power of good editing.

I now see the editor as the conductor of a grand orchestra. He or she controls the tempo and rhythm of the film. Films are created by many people doing many jobs. Each contributes an important part in the making of a film. The editor takes all their work and pieces it together. While I still appreciate directors, I now see that film editors are the silent directors who help create the director’s vision. So, I now not only hope to become a great director but a marvelous editor.

Keefer.2014.5.jpgThe purpose of this blog is not only to create more awareness of film editors but also, showing another way to appreciate filmmaking. It goes without saying that I love movies. Becoming a film critic for KIDS FIRST! has allowed me to channel that love and passion through my reviews. Now that passion is applied in studying the art of filmmaking. Having growing up praising films and adoring other filmmakers, I am taking that passion and make films that can touch people the same way they have me.

As I take this journey, I will continue to share my experience through my blogs - sharing the insights I discover and my admiration for the films and filmmakers I love.

DiCaprio is Not The Most Overdue Actor for an Oscar by Willie J. .

December 1st, 2015

ellen_oscar.jpgLet the hate begin. I know I may get a lot of flack for this but it is the truth. Mind you, I am not saying he’s never deserved an Oscar nor am I saying he’s untalented. But what I am saying, is that there are actors out there who have been snubbed longer and more often than Mr. DiCaprio. His fans, who I’d say wouldn’t be fans if it weren’t for his good looks, will surely wish to hurt me after this but movie fans and those passionate about the art form of cinema will hear me out and understand where I’m coming from.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated for an acting Oscar four times, and some say he should have more. People think he should’ve been nominated for more- naturally. The reason I bring up this point is that Leonardo DiCaprio, for the past ten years or so, has had a fan base that complains about him “never winning an Oscar” and that “they’ll never give him Oscar.” Some say he’s the second coming of Pacino. But where are the millions of adoring fans carping about Gary Oldman not having an Oscar? Or Donald Sutherland? Or Glenn Close? Or Michelle Pfeiffer? Or Annette Bening? Or Max Von Sydow? We’re talking about actors who have been performing their craft at the highest level for over 50 years and none of them were particularly considered sex symbols in their prime eras. But then, the biggest sex symbol of his era has a following of fans that would protest AMPAS themselves over the fact Leo hasn’t received an Oscar. And that is a travesty. Not because Leo isn’t talented, but because other actors with a larger legend don’t have the backing of those same people. Perhaps they don’t because the merit given by the fans would have nothing to do with their physical appearance.

If DiCaprio’s fan base fought passionately over his Oscar-less career because they feel he’s made great art and would fight for his award, it would be different. But Glenn Close has been acting for four decades and has gone through six nominations without the precious prize. Where’s the outrage for her? Someone who’s as big a legend as she is deserves such support. The woman has made her mark with great films such as Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and 101 Dalmations. Broadway has seen her immense talent and she’s succeeded there. She’s mastered the medium of television as well with the hit show Damages. Yet there aren’t multitudes of young adoring fans defending her case for an Oscar. Is it because she’s not a world renowned beauty?

Or let’s take even better examples. Gary Oldman, one of our most versatile actors for more than thirty years has just a single nomination. It came three years ago. But no one is fawning over him and beating up AMPAS for not rewarding him. Donald Sutherland is maybe the greatest actor without a nomination. For more than forty years he has given consistently great performances in films such as MASH, Ordinary People and Day of the Locusts. He’s entranced us on both TV and the Silver Screen, yet he hasn’t a single nomination. But there isn’t any outcry over his snubs.Willie1.jpg

Where are the outcries for Annette Bening’s Oscar-less career. The Grifters? American Beauty? Being Julia? The Kids Are All Right? Nothing. And those are only her nominated performances. She’s been entertaining us for thirty years strong without due recognition. Then, to cap this all off, what about the great Max Von Sydow. Where’s the award for The Virgin Spring? Wild Strawberries? The Seventh Seal? Or Through a Glass Darkly? Let’s not forget The Exorcist. He’s been doing this since the 40s, but no one is outraged or arguing for his Oscar.

DiCaprio, by measure, has been in movies for almost a quarter of a century and he didn’t start giving consistently good performances until the turn of the century. What separates him from the legends mentioned? He’s got the looks. Isn’t it sad? There are campaigns from his fans to get him his Oscar but the Oldman’s and the Sydow’s of the world are forgotten…or even worse, unappreciated.

I’ve ranted before about the decline of artistic appreciation. It disturbes me when an actor’s looks gains him sympathy about the lack of deserved recognition rather than their talent. I please with AMPAS, give Donald Sutherland his nomination, let him know you know he’s there. Give Oldman his win. Give Glenn Close her much awaited win. We needn’t have a female Peter O’Toole.

Speaking of Mr. O’Toole. Where’s his Oscar? Zero for eight is an awful track record for someone who gave us Lawrence of Arabia, Becket and The Lion in Winter. Yet Leo DiCaprio gets all the crusades about his being without the gold. Where’s Leo’s Lawrence of Arabia? Or is he too sexy for one.

Think about that.

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