Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for February, 2016

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

Monday, 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.

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Critics: Negative or Positive? By Keefer C.Blakeslee

Tuesday, 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.

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

Tuesday, 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.

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Oscars So White By Willie Jones

Tuesday, 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.

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