Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for January, 2016

The Boundless Creativity of Studio Ghibli by Clayton Pickard

Tuesday, 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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One Hundred Years of Film by Gerry Orz

Tuesday, 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!

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Don Bluth, The Animator Awakens by Keefer B.

Tuesday, 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.

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Actresses We Lost in 2015 By Brianna Hope Beaton

Tuesday, 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.

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