Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for February, 2021

The Crew * Even For Non-NASCAR Fans, This Series Will Grip Your Attention And Sweep You Into A Riptide Of Emotions

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

Life in the garage goes off track for a NASCAR crew chief and his racing team when a new boss shakes things up. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The Crew is truly a show about community, friendship and sticking together. All of the members of the NASCAR team featured in the show are, as the High School Musical jingle goes, “all in this together.” They bear their new boss Catherine together, and help each other through their problems. Even for those who aren’t NASCAR fans, this ten-episode show will grip your attention and sweep you up into a riptide of emotions.” See his full review below.

The Crew
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The Crew is an enjoyable watch that teaches you in equal measures about racing and being there for your friends. Even for those who aren’t NASCAR fans, this ten-episode show will grip your attention and sweep you up into a riptide of emotions.

THE CREW (L to R) KEVIN JAMES as KEVIN in episode 105 of THE CREW Cr. ERIC LIEBOWITZ/NETFLIX © 2020

Honestly, there’s not much technical detail given about racing; the deepest the show gets into the subject matter is describing the inner workings of a muscle car engine. But viewers will not be disappointed. The Crew follows a group of coworkers – Kevin, Chuck, Amir, Jake and Beth – at Bobby Spencer Racing (a small NASCAR team out of North Carolina) through their daily lives – their highs, their lows and their in-betweens. Catherine Spencer, Bobby’s daughter, takes over the company within the first episode. The high-and-mighty Stanford graduate right out of Silicon Valley is tasked with completely revamping the company. Careers are put in jeopardy, game hunting goes wrong (no animals were hurt in the making of this show) and we see exactly how much NASCAR teams love steak in all forms.

This rip-roaring show is led by the comedy powerhouse Kevin James, a true legend, who plays Kevin. He’s the ‘personality’ of the office, a former racing driver who retired to the garage after an injury. Gary Anthony Williams plays the fix-it man, Chuck. Dan Ahdoot is the socially-awkward and anxious Amir. Freddie Stroma plays the slightly slow, but incredibly adorable Jake. Sarah Stiles is the curly-haired, sweet, Southern Beth. The femme-fatale of the show, Catherine Spencer, is played by Jillian Mueller. Of all the characters, I love Kevin (obviously) as well as Beth and Catherine. Both of the women have such layered characters, especially Catherine. We are only given hints at her childhood – save for the frequent mention of her Stanford degree, which is turned into a drinking game by Kevin and Frank. The cast is incredibly talented, especially in terms of their comedic timing. Their chemistry is visible on screen. You can tell that they would be the best of friends on set. The sets of The Crew are also so realistic!

The Crew is truly a show about community, friendship and sticking together. All of the members of the NASCAR team featured in the show are, as the High School Musical jingle goes, “all in this together.” They bear their new boss Catherine together, and help each other through their problems. There’s slight profanity at certain points in the show, and there are hunting scenes, but they’re not graphic.

I give The Crew 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. The Crew will be available on Netflix on February 15, 2021.  

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Our Time Machine – What an Emotional Journey about the Reality of Alzheimer’s Disease

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

When influential Chinese artist Ma Liang (a.k.a. Maleonn) realizes that his father Ma Ke, an accomplished Peking Opera director, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he invites his father to collaborate on his most ambitious project to date – a haunting, magical, autobiographical stage performance featuring life-size mechanical puppets called “Papa’s Time Machine”. Through the creation of this play, the two men confront their mortality before time runs out and memories are lost forever. KIDS FIRST! reviewer David O. comments, “Our Time Machine offers such an emotional journey about the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a documentary about a son doing what he can to show his appreciation toward his father, who is has Alzheimer’s disease. This film is beautifully created, with a very emotional tone as we get to the see the production of the play and the hardships it faces, while we also see the father’s health declining.” See his full review below.

Our Time Machine
By David O., KIDS FIRST! Reviewer

Our Time Machine offers such an emotional journey about the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a documentary about a son doing what he can to show his appreciation toward his father, who is has Alzheimer’s disease. This film is beautifully created, with a very emotional tone as we get to the see the production of the play and the hardships it faces, while we also see the father’s health declining. It shows the ups and downs in the art world and what a son is capable of doing to express his gratitude and appreciation.

A Chinese artist creates the biggest project of his career – an autobiographical play that uses mechanical puppets to tell the story. He struggles with time, money and his father’s health, as he becoming more and more ill with Alzheimer’s disease.

Our Time Machine is the documented story of Maleonn and his father Ma Ke. Throughout the film, we learn about the background of the family, and how invested they are in the art world. The story really shows the emotions that the son is feeling, as he feels frustrated, sad, emotional, but excited at the same time. It is an emotional journey, as there are father/son moments that are very touching, but also the doctor visits for the father are extremely sad as they show his health degrading. The main parts of the film are how the play is taking direction and its process, and the counterpart of how Ma Ke’s health is declining to the point he does not remember the most basic aspects of life.

The camera work is diverse as it moves from scene to scene, depending on the context of the work. There are moments where pictures are shown or celebrations, such as birthdays and anniversaries, take place in real time. The camera moves as the characters move, and capture the complete context of the scenes. The locations vary throughout the film. The flow is very continuous, and everything takes place in different scenarios. The two central sets of the documentary are the parents’ house and the place where the play takes life. In addition, locations from the past and present, and even outside the country can be observed.

There is little background music, and it changes from scene to scene. It does not drive the action in the film as much as the conversations between all the characters. That is what gives life to the film. But the sound effects are essential to get the complete message. They vary and are mostly focused to enhance dialogues between the puppet father and the puppet son. They help with the flow of the play and how it is presented in stage. All the visual effects take place in scenes where the son or the father are reminiscing about the past, and in scenes where the son is dreaming and creating his play. They are remarkable, as they are thoughts that are later done exactly how they were intended.

This documentary took around three years to complete, focusing on the artist Maleonn and his family. There are many persons involved in the film, as it shows the family of the protagonist as well as his team and employees that give life to the play.

Everything that Maleonn does in this film has an ultimate goal – to show his appreciation and gratitude to his father before is too late. He does everything he can to make this possible, but time and money are to his disadvantage. Everything that we see and feel during the documentary just highlights the main message: We need to appreciate and embrace every moment with others before it is too late. In this case, the artist tries to do this with his father who is forgetting everything and everyone around him. This is a hard reality for many families around the world, and it is necessary to live and appreciate those good moments before the bad ones that may come in the future. Sometimes those good moments are the ones that give us strength and hope for the hard ones that can come.

You should know that it contains some profanity and behavior. There is a scene where the artist is celebrating his birthday with his colleagues. They are drinking heavily and use some mild language, d*mn and *ss. Also, smoking is a recurrent act throughout the movie. Almost all the main characters can be observed smoking at some point of the film.

What I love about this film is the engineering process of creating every single thought Maleonn has. I was mesmerized by the creativity and the work that took place to create all the pieces of the stage and the mechanical puppets. They are so realistic and so well designed. The scenarios in the play are breathtaking. They recreate a plane from scratch and everything is neat and planned. I was in awe in every single scene where all these elements are shown, as they are incredibly created and structured. The protagonist is Chinese artist Maleonn. His father Ma Ke, is a well renowned Peking Opera director.

I give Our Time Machine 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. This film is beautiful in all areas. It has great production values, a real and emotional storyline, it sends across a valuable message, and the use of art and creativity throughout the documentary is of high quality. It is a rather complex film, as it is intended for older audiences such as older teenagers and adults. Also, it shows the hard reality of a person with Alzheimer’s and the emotional toll that takes on the family. This film shows the frustration, the sadness, the rawness of the desperation in the father’s face, and that makes it more touching and real. I shed some tears when I saw these scenes, as I could see the impotence of both the father and the son in different moments, and that is what really made me think about my family and how to appreciate every moment I get to share with them. Our Time Machine is playing in select film festivals now.

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