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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Academy Awards, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 59
1. The Academy Announces Scientific and Technical Awards Contenders

Eleven technological advances, including work by Weta Digital and DreamWorks Animation, have been selected for further review.

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2. Restored Wallace and Gromit Shorts to Premiere in Los Angeles

A cheese-loving man and his genius dog get the Hollywood love they deserve.

0 Comments on Restored Wallace and Gromit Shorts to Premiere in Los Angeles as of 7/14/2015 3:38:00 PM
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3. One Corporation Cannot Own the Animated Feature Oscar

The Disney Corporation has won the Oscar seven of the last eight years, and that's not healthy for the art form.

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4. Advice to Academy Award Winners: Trust Your Art


The Aliens Inc, Chapter Book Series

Try Book 1 for Free



As I watched the Academy Awards last week, I was struck by how little the winners trusted their works of art. The ceremony was peppered with political statements for one cause or another. (Don’t misread: I have sympathies for these causes, but not for taking over the ceremony to smash us over the head with the cause.) There were pleas for women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, and disability rights. Really? Their work of art, the film that was being recognized, had already said what needed to be said in poignant, touching, and life-changing ways. Why didn’t they trust their art?

In the 1970s, children’s book publishers put out a lot of “problem novels,” which addressed social issues. The backlash against them was huge and still has echoes today in how easily some manuscripts are rejected. Since then, though, we’ve learned how to include our passions in our stories in ways that shine as art. We don’t stick it in our reader’s faces.

Bringing a Cause to Life

Morality. If you’re passionate about a cause, though, what should you do? First set up a moral dilemma around the cause because that will allow you to explore multiple perspectives. Moral dilemmas force characters to make a choice, which allows your readers to feel the weight of the issues and either agree or disagree with the character’s choices. You almost have to include someone making wrong choices–usually as the villain.

S&B COVER3-CS.inddEmotions. For example, in my book, Saucy and Bubba: A Hansel and Gretel Tale, Saucy runs away from an alcoholic step-mother. She must decide whether to live with an aunt or go home to live with her father and the step-mother. It’s a moral choice, but also an emotional choice, complicated by the question of where will her little brother go.


Sometimes you have to help yourself before you can help someone else, but if you mark your trail, you can always find your way home. That’s what the spunky main character of Darcy Pattison’s Saucy and Bubba learns in this modern day Hansel and Gretel tale. Saucy is a real character dealing with real stuff—hard stuff that doesn’t have easy answers, not in real life and not in fairy tales, either. This is a really compelling and ultimately hopeful story. Highly recommended.
— Debby Dahl Edwardson, National Book Award finalist
and author of My Name is Not Easy


Plurality. We live in a pluralistic culture; that is, many different cultures co-exist peacefully, and our work should respect that variety of cultures. Your ideas must compete in the marketplace of ideas and as time passes, certain ideas will gain popularity and others will fade. Yes, there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong; I believe in some absolutes (Thou shalt not kill!). But some things DO depend. As you write, recognize the variety of ideas possible and work to include characters who bring those ideas to enrich the story you are telling.

Trust your art. In the end, I choose to trust my art. Growing up, I had an alcoholic step-father; today, about 11 million children live with a caregiver who is an alcoholic. I could rant; instead, let me tell you a story. Read a sample chapter or listen to the audio of Chapter 1 of Saucy and Bubba.

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5. Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper

still_5

By Harper Harris

In one of the most visually and emotionally striking films nominated for Best Animated Short Film at this year’s Academy Awards, The Dam Keeper has garnered a lot of well-deserved praise. The creators, Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, have worked as art directors on such films as Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, and Ice Age, but got together to create The Dam Keeper as a very personal short film, and it shows. The film, done in a gorgeous painted style with almost no words, is unique and heartbreaking despite its short running time of only 18 minutes. What’s more exciting than such a great short? Why, how about a series of graphic novels by the creators, published through First Second, that explores this world?

The Dam Keeper is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic world with anthropomorphic people living in a valley, the only safe haven from the dark and dangerous clouds that surround it. Keeping this darkness at bay is Pig, a young boy with no family who must wind the windmill every day to blow back the clouds. In the short, he meets a girl his age, Fox, and through a series of wordless interactions, they become friends. However, a misunderstanding causes a rift between the two that has drastic consequences for the entire valley, which leads to the dramatic climax. Kondo and Tsutsumi recently announced that they plan to elaborate on the world of The Dam Keeper through a series of new graphic novels. I got a chance to speak with both creators to hear about this interesting cross-media expansion on their celebrated short film. The below answers come from the team collectively.

Where did the initial idea for the short film spring from?

The Dam Keeper was our first effort to write and direct together as a team.  Initial ideas of an unsung hero in a polluted world went through different variations in discovering our creative process.  Along the way, we rediscovered a childhood folktale, The Little Dutch Boy, about a boy whose little act of sacrifice ended up saving his town.  We wondered, “What if our character held the responsibility of saving his town not just once but every day?”How did you decide on the very unique visual style for the short film?

We spent time thinking about what might distinguish us as a team.  Because we worked closely together for over seven years at Pixar and had influenced each other’s artwork, we actually could paint like each other.  This made us unique within the art department there and it felt like the unique thing we could apply to our film.  Not to mention, creating a painted look seemed a more natural route for us at the time than building a 3D CG pipeline.

With over 8,000 painted stills, it must have been a painstaking process! How long did the film take to create?

still_4The actual production and post-production ran for 9 months — a long process, but considering we all had full-time jobs during the day, it was an extremely well run production thanks to our producers Megan Bartel and Duncan Ramsay.

Part of what makes the short so interesting is how little we as an audience really know about the circumstances in this world where a dark cloud constantly threatens the valley beneath. What made you decide to explore this world more deeply?

For us, on one level, the dark cloud represents our character’s internal demon.  On another level, it also speaks to us quite literally, and so we have always imagined other cities and people living on the other side of the dam.  It feels natural for us to explore how different societies might deal with this deadly fog and how the particular inhabitants of each civilization would have their own respective social issues, just as we saw with Pig’s idyllic-seeming town in the short.

Speaking of, will the book series focus primarily on Pig’s future as he grows up, or will there be a look into the past of this world as well?

There will be elements of both, with a very emotional storyline for Pig and his friends set against the ticking time bomb of their polluted world.  But there will be a lot of laughter along the way, too.

One of the many things that makes The Dam Keeper so endearing is its lack of dialogue…do you plan to keep the companion graphic novels in the same silent style?

Dialogue will be an important addition to the story and we hope to use it while maintaining the feeling and tone of the short.

Will these companion pieces be graphic novels in a comic book style, or more along the lines of illustrated novels?

Much as we did with the short, we are exploring different ways to execute this new form of storytelling, not just in terms of format but as a team, since we haven’t done a book together before.

Why a graphic novel series to continue the stories in this whimsical world instead of, for example, an animated series?

We are concurrently pursuing an animated feature adaptation of The Dam Keeper.  Our company, Tonko House is open to telling stories in different formats.  We believe graphic novels are different than films, but are great vehicles for narrative just the same.  We are inspired by stories like Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki‘s This One Summer and Gene Luen Yang‘s American Born Chinese.

What kind of adventures can we hope to see Pig, Fox, and Hippo get into?

Pig and Fox’s adventures will be epic, wondrous, revelatory and daunting all at the same time — they will be taken out of their element and challenged as they come of age.  And they will be joined on this journey by a most unexpected ally or enemy, depending on whose point of view it is.

What inspired you to jump the story ahead to their teen years rather than continuing to explore their youth?

The early teen years are such an interesting rite of passage, when innocence challenged by one’s awareness of the world forces growth in character.  The underlying story is based upon a personal anecdote that fits well at this point in our characters’ lives as they are forced to engage with who they are and who they want to be.

While the short covers some darker territory, it maintains a childlike tone that is both charming and quite beautiful; can we expect the story to get a little more adult in tone in the continued story as the characters grow older?

still_8We believe in the balance of light and darkness, and we will strive to capture both to connect with international audiences of all ages.  We want the choices our characters make to have real consequences, whether it is neglecting your responsibility and letting the darkness in, or something new and possibly more far-reaching.  We feel that if our characters and their motivations ring true, then this journey of boys becoming men will be enjoyable by many regardless of age.

How did you come to choose First Second as the publisher for this series?

We are big fans of First Second first and foremost as readers.  As creators, since conceiving the larger story of The Dam Keeper, we have been searching for the right people to work with in both film and publishing to help protect it and take it to the highest level of work we are capable of.  When we met our editor, Mark Siegel, there was an instant connection and the kind of partnership we had sought after.  We feel we are in great hands to learn this new medium for Tonko House.

How many books do you foresee being in the series?

It’s a bit of wait and see!

Do you feel that you may hand the reins over to a different writer or artist at some point to let them explore this world, or will this always be a personal project for the two of you?

We would most likely always be involved with how the world of The Dam Keeper expands. The story we are working on now is based on our own personal life experiences, and we hope any artists or writers we work with will bring the same level of personal investment and motivation into this world.   Coming from big feature animation studios where teamwork is essential, we hope always to collaborate with and learn from other artists since those experience have proven to be extremely rewarding time and time again.

When can we expect the first book to release? Where can fans follow both of you and your work?

We’ll be working around the clock to have the books ready as early as possible.

Any news related to The Dam Keeper will be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/TheDamKeeper
http://www.simplestroke.com
https://instagram.com/robertkondo/


The first of two graphic novel sequels to The Dam Keeper will arrive in 2016 from First Second.

2 Comments on Interview: Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi team up with First Second to further explore the world of The Dam Keeper, last added: 3/12/2015
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6. Cartoon Brew Launches 2015 Animation Oscar Tracker

What animated shorts and features are contending for an Oscar this year?

0 Comments on Cartoon Brew Launches 2015 Animation Oscar Tracker as of 5/21/2015 10:37:00 PM
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7. Great man drumming: Birdman, Whiplash, and myth of the male artist

Among this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture were two films with drum scores: Whiplash, in which a highly regarded but abusive conductor molds an aspiring young jazz musician into the genius he was meant to be, and Birdman, in which an aging film actor who was never a genius at all stars in a play and possibly flies. In spite of their innovative soundtracks, neither film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.

The post Great man drumming: Birdman, Whiplash, and myth of the male artist appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Entertainment Round-Up: Wonder Woman, Daredevil, Officer Downe, Supergirl, and a few Oscar predictions

gal-godot-2

It’s Oscar Eve! I’ll toss out a few Oscar Predictions towards the bottom of today’s round-up, but let’s get to what’s making headlines today in the world of comics-based entertainment.

– In a piece about a possible future Gal Gadot project, Deadline has reported that the actress will begin filming Wonder Woman in the fall. If that’s indeed the case, the never quite made official release date of June 23rd, 2017 sounds pretty likely to be met for the Michelle MacLaren production.

– The official Daredevil Netflix series twitter feed teased out the following photo yesterday:

 

The indication being that Daredevil’s father Jack Murdock fought The Absorbing Man at some point in the series’ history. Though, depending on the age that Creel is portrayed as, this could present a bit of a continuity issue since Creel appeared as an adversary of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team during the first few episodes of this current season. Perhaps his power keeps him from aging?

Sons of Anarchy star Kim Coates has been cast as the lead in the upcoming feature film adaptation of Officer Downe, based on the Image comic by Joe Casey and Chris Burnham. Officer Downe will mark the directorial debut of Shawn Crahan aka Clown, co-founder of the metal act Slipknot, while Casey is penning the script.

– And finally, Supergirl now has a matriarchal figure for Melissa Benoist‘s Kara, as Nashville‘s Laura Benanti has signed on to play Alura Zor-El. Alura will be a recurring role in the series, offering her daughter guidance that echoes through space and time.

While Torsten will have a much better and comprehensive write-up on The Beat shortly, for whatever it’s worth, here are my Oscar predictions for tomorrow night in the major categories.:

Best Picture: Birdman

Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Adapted Screenplay: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash (no guts, no glory over here!)

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Best Editing: Sandra Adair, Boyhood

3 Comments on Entertainment Round-Up: Wonder Woman, Daredevil, Officer Downe, Supergirl, and a few Oscar predictions, last added: 2/23/2015
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9. An A-Z of the Academy Awards

After what feels like a year's worth of buzz, publicity, predictions, and celebrity gossip, the 87th Academy Award ceremony is upon us. I dug into the entries available in the alphabetized categories of The Dictionary of Film Studies-- and added some of my own trivia -- to highlight 26 key concepts in the elements of cinema and the history surrounding the Oscars.

The post An A-Z of the Academy Awards appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Proof That Oscar Voters Are Clueless About Animation

What if the animation Oscars were chosen by people who knew nothing about animation?

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11. The audience screams; people duck

Millions of Americans are eagerly anticipating this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. For over a century, motion pictures have been a dominant cultural and leisure medium. There are, however, two aspects worth highlighting: the sheer novelty of motion pictures and the medium’s initial democratic nature. Twenty-first century Americans have difficulty imagining the wonder and awe motion pictures inspired in the early 1900s.

The post The audience screams; people duck appeared first on OUPblog.

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12. Disney Sweeps! ‘Big Hero 6′ and ‘Feast’ Win Oscars

Disney's 'Big Hero 6' and 'Feast' both won Oscars tonight.

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13. Your Complete 2015 Academy Award Winner List

USA ACADEMY AWARDS 2015

Last night’s Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone, and below you can find the complete list of winners (with links to reviews my team over at GeekRex have written for a few of the selections). There aren’t too many surprises this year, though I will grouse a bit about Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay (I lean towards Richard Linklater, Michael Keaton, and Whiplash there). Regardless, it was a tough night for the Boyhood camp. I think the Academy may regret that one in future years. Or maybe not, this is the same body that handed over the top prize to The King’s Speech just a few years ago (let’s not even get into what it beat).

On a much more positive note, J.K. Simmons (General Eiling from Justice League Unlimited!) and Julianne Moore both finally got their long deserved dues! Additionally Interstellar won for Best Visual Effects, and The Grand Budapest Hotel took home some serious hardware in the craft categories. It’s hard not to be happy with that.

Best Picture

Birdman,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole

Best Actress

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Best Actor

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything

Best Supporting Actor

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood

Best Director

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Imitation Game,” Graham Moore

Best Original Screenplay

“Birdman,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Best Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Alexandre Desplat

Best Song
“Glory” from “Selma“; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

Best Documentary Feature
“CITIZENFOUR,” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Film Editing
Whiplash,” Tom Cross

Best Cinematography

“Birdman,” Emmanuel Lubezki

Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

Best Animated Feature

“Big Hero 6,” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

Short Film, Animated
“Feast,” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Visual Effects
Interstellar,” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

Sound Editing
“American Sniper,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing
“Whiplash,” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Documentary Short Subject

“Crisis Hotline,” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Short Film, Live Action

“The Phone Call,” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Best Foreign Film

“Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski

Makeup and Hairstyling

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Costume Design

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Milena Canonero

 

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14. Entertainment Round-Up: Margot Robbie, James Gunn, Telltale Games, Pee-Wee comes to Netflix

james gunn

There’s snow on the ground here in Atlanta, and I can’t wait for Spring to finally arrive. Seriously.

Here are the big updates for this morning:

– This is not a big surprise, given that probably every actor that signs up for a superhero film these days has a multi-picture contract, but Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie has confirmed that she has one too. Get used to seeing lots of Harley Quinn in future DC movies, provide all goes well for the studio.

– Making the rounds yesterday was James Gunn‘s Facebook post regarding the awards-season/Birdman-birthed narrative that superhero movies are the death-knell of creativity in Hollywood, it’s pretty wonderful:

Whatever the case, the truth is, popular fare in any medium has always been snubbed by the self-appointed elite. I’ve already won more awards than I ever expected for Guardians. What bothers me slightly is that many people assume because you make big films that you put less love, care, and thought into them then people do who make independent films or who make what are considered more serious Hollywood films.

I’ve made B-movies, independent films, children’s movies, horror films, and gigantic spectacles. I find there are plenty of people everywhere making movies for a buck or to feed their own vanity. And then there are people who do what they do because they love story-telling, they love cinema, and they want to add back to the world some of the same magic they’ve taken from the works of others. In all honesty, I do no find a strikingly different percentage of those with integrity and those without working within any of these fields of film.

If you think people who make superhero movies are dumb, come out and say we’re dumb. But if you, as an independent filmmaker or a “serious” filmmaker, think you put more love into your characters than the Russo Brothers do Captain America, or Joss Whedon does the Hulk, or I do a talking raccoon, you are simply mistaken.

At this point, I have a hard time imagining that a comic-book based superhero film will ever win a live-action Best Picture Oscar (if The Dark Knight couldn’t even be nominated), but does it actually matter? Not really. Let’s just continue to hope for more Avengers, Dark Knights, Winter Soldiers and films with a nice personal stamp on them and less of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 variety.

– Telltale Games has, over the the past few years, sparked a revival of the adventure game genre with comics-based titles like The Walking Dead and Fables (along with Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands). Today, Lionsgate Films and Telltale announced the former’s investment into the burgeoning game developer. What does it mean for Telltales’ output? We may see some television and video game co-development soon, particularly in terms of an original property. At the very least more Lionsgate properties will surely be headed into the development cycle.

– Former Bat-Mite voice actor Paul Reubens is bringing his famous Pee-Wee Herman character back to television, as Netflix has announced that the feature, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, will be coming to the streaming service. The new film is co-written by Reubens and Paul Rust (Comedy Bang Bang), with John Lee (Inside Amy Schumer) directing. Judd Apatow will produce under his Apatow Productions banner.

5 Comments on Entertainment Round-Up: Margot Robbie, James Gunn, Telltale Games, Pee-Wee comes to Netflix, last added: 2/24/2015
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15. Lee & Low Likes… Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Since the diversity pieces out there today can be rather disheartening (like our Diversity Gap in the Oscars infographic), we decided to take a look at things that are a bit more positive. And as the 86th Academy Awards are on Sunday, this “Lee & Low Likes” honors Cheryl Boone Issacs, the first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s important to note that she’s just the third woman to be elected; Bette Davis served for just two month in 1941 and screenwriter Fay Kanin held the position for four years in 1979-1983. Sadly, it’s been 30 years since a woman has held the president position in the Academy.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs picture

Cheryl Boone Isaacs

Isaacs has had a long and illustrious career in Hollywood. She has worked on many Oscar winning movies: as a consultant for The Artist and The King’s Speech and on publicity for Braveheart and Forrest Gump. She was also a president of marketing at New Line Cinema and an executive vice president at Paramount Pictures.

In an interview with Variety, Isaacs talks about how the Academy should be a place that recognizes all of the voices out there: “I think what’s important is … equal opportunity, not holding people back because of their gender, their race, nationality. We are about self-expression and are still the holder of dreams.”

It’s a long road to a more diverse Hollywood, but Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a huge step in the right direction and we very much look forward to seeing the changes she brings during her tenure.

 


Filed under: Lee & Low Likes, The Diversity Gap Tagged: 2014 Academy Awards, Academy Awards, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, diversity, Oscars, Women of Color in Hollywood, Women President

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16. Definitive Proof That Academy Voters Are Ignorant About Animation

Those of us in animation always gripe that the rest of Hollywood doesn't care or know the first thing about animated films. There are tons of anecdotal stories to support this position, but finally, we've got some definitive proof. And if you think Hollywood doesn't understand animation, it's even worse than you could imagine.

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17. A Look at Rhythm & Hues’ Oscar-Winning Technology Voodoo

The Oscars just did a little segment on their Scientific and Technical Awards. Among the the winners of the Technical Achievement Award this year was Rhythm & Hues for its proprietary Voodoo software.

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18. Steve McQueen’s low-tech triumph: Looking at this year’s Oscar winners

By James Tweedie


The annual Academy Awards ceremony draws weeks of media attention, hours of live television coverage beginning with stars strolling down the red carpet, and around 40 million viewers nationwide on Oscar night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences relegates the awards for technical achievement to a separate ceremony a couple of weeks before, a sedate affair in a hotel ballroom rather the spectacular setting of the Dolby Theater. While this division between the arts and sciences is clear in awards season, that boundary has almost disappeared in the movies themselves, as computer-generated imagery and digital 3-D now occupy a prominent position in most major studio productions.

oscar

Academy Award for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Photo by Loren Javier. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

For almost a century popular American cinema has been primarily a storytelling medium, with the motion picture sciences playing a more secondary role, but the distinction between the popular arts of Hollywood and the engineering of Silicon Valley is blurring. The movie business is being incorporated into a TED world where technology and design are the cornerstones of most big-budget entertainment.

For the first three hours of Sunday’s broadcast, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity seemed to be soaring toward a Best Picture Oscar, a victory that would have marked a new stage in this transformation of the American movie industry. A tour de force of technological innovation, Gravity won a total of seven Academy Awards, including the bellwether prizes for Best Editing and Best Director, and the voters appeared on the verge of bestowing their top honor on one of the first films to utilize the full potential of 3-D, a film that creates an almost visceral, stomach-dropping sensation of weightlessness as the camera and bodies appear to bob and drift through space. At other times the camera hurtles forward and the storyline rushes us from one space vehicle to another, propelled by an accidental explosion or the blast of a strategically deployed fire extinguisher. In those moments the weakness of Gravity is as unmistakable as its technical prowess: its virtuoso, gravity-defying feats are accompanied by an almost absurdly insubstantial and implausible plot, even by the standards of Hollywood, where happy endings have been arriving on cue for decades and most cars seem to have a magical sixth gear that allows them to fly over rising drawbridges. The narrative seems almost like an afterthought in Gravity, a pretext to link together one floating space platform and the next and to celebrate cinematic technology in itself, untethering it from earthly concerns like the plot.

Vertigomovie_restoration

Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

But the Academy voters obviously had a different narrative in mind when they submitted their ballots, and in keeping with a long tradition of last-minute plot twists, they managed to compose a far more heartening conclusion to the year in film. In your average year, the Academy Awards are, to borrow the title of one of this year’s Best Picture contenders, an “American hustle.” Every March, we anticipate the canonization of a new Citizen Kane or Vertigo, half-forgetting that these films, among the most revered American movies ever made, won a grand total of one Oscar (Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles, for the screenplay for Citizen Kane). Kane was nominated in nine categories and lost eight of them, and Hitchcock and the other makers of Vertigo left the Pantages Theater empty-handed in 1959.

The list of regrettable Academy Award decisions and omissions (for example, Hitchcock’s career-long snub in the Best Director category or the single statuette given to Stanley Kubrick in his lifetime, for visual effects in 2001) is at least as long as Oscar’s triumphs. While viewers tune in for the glitz, glamor, comedy, fashion, and, on occasion, a genuinely moving acceptance speech (or a train wreck taking place at the podium), the ceremony also promises to provide an annual assessment of the state of American cinema. The opulent spectacle arrives each year without fail, but the Academy almost habitually overlooks the truly vibrant pictures and artists working in the film industry in the United States. What does Oscar reward instead?

The recipients of the major awards are usually not the most lucrative blockbusters (which have already received their rewards at the box office) nor are they the type of formally innovative and idiosyncratic pictures that enter the canon retrospectively. The films that tend to be overrated by the Academy are well-meaning films that appear to address an important social issue, while discovering some heroes and reasons for hope in an otherwise trying situation (Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, and Million Dollar Baby, to name three of the last eight Best Picture winners). Films by recognized American auteurs like Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers, or Kathryn Bigelow have also fared well (see, for example, The Departed in 2006, No Country for Old Men in the following year, and The Hurt Locker in 2009), as have historical films that depict a triumph over hardship, with the formula for contemporary cinema—adversity, heroism, survival, and even a measure of vindication—retooled for use in the past. (See The King’s Speech in 2010 for the most recent example, but note also the run of five consecutive awards beginning in 1993 for Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, The English Patient, and Titanic, which together established the historical film as a one of the surest paths to the podium.) What matters at Oscar time is the appearance of importance and a willingness to return to historical tragedies or to glance at contemporary social ills.

Viewed in retrospect, the Academy Awards perform something of a bait and switch, as instead of recognizing the best films created in the previous year they provide a barometer of the social and historical problems that continue to haunt us, including (to focus on this year’s nominees) political corruption, the excesses of Wall Street, uneven development, slavery and racism, the AIDS crisis, and the persistence of homophobia. This year’s Best Picture nominees have been justly scrutinized precisely because they seem so intimately linked with the problems they address. Four of the nine nominees are based on actual events drawn from the very recent past, another (Philomena) recounts a true story spanning a 50-year period from the middle of the twentieth century to the present, and 12 Years a Slave retells the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free African-American from New York who was kidnapped and sold into bondage in Louisiana. Add Gravity to this strong group of films, and oddsmakers were predicting the tightest contest in recent memory, with these many returns to history pitted against an immersive, high-tech cinematic experience of the future.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, a real-life financial scam artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio, finds himself unable to drive home after an overdose of Quaaludes that leaves him prostrate on the front steps of his country club. Summoning all his strength, he manages to slither across the driveway, hoist himself into his gull-winged sports car, and steer through a series of obstacles unscathed. Or at least that’s how the events unfold the first time, in what appears to be Jordan’s experience of reality. Immediately after that sequence, we see the police arrive and Scorsese presents us with a revisionist version, with a wreckage of cars and signposts left flattened in his wake. Hollywood’s approach to the past often resembles the first, more delusional of these scenes, with the heroic figure emerging triumphant from history.

In 12 Years a Slave the historical devastation caused by slavery is more frightening because the damage is all pervasive, because nothing is left uncorrupted by the system that frames every interaction through the lens of property. Screenwriter John Ridley and director McQueen had the courage to let Solomon Northup’s story remain largely unchanged from the original autobiography and to frame the most searing images in the simplest, most direct way, as in the agonizingly long take where a near lynching unfolds almost in slow motion. And in the best tradition of classical Hollywood cinema, McQueen manages to combine a compelling narrative with a series of subtle character portraits, as Northup travels through a looking glass from his prior existence as an accomplished musician and family man in New York to what seems like an alternative universe, where survival depends on the stripping away of those markers of identity and humanity. Rather than present slavery as an incomprehensible evil from another time, the film also chronicles the everyday rationalizations that allow the master to accept depravity as a way of life and the foundation of an economic order.

In most years the Oscars ceremony performs a bait and switch, as we await the announcement of the year’s best films and hear the name of a soon-to-be-forgotten film. But the Academy Awards also remind us why we continue to care about movies and ascribe to them a social significance and power all out of proportion with the relatively modest ambitions of even the Best Picture nominees, let alone the more standard studio fare. The Oscars are an advertisement for the potential of cinema to engage with traumatic historical and contemporary realities, even if we usually have to look elsewhere for the films that address those issues in all of their complexity. 12 Years a Slave, one of the few masterpieces also to win the award for Best Picture, reminds us that sometimes those films can come straight from Hollywood.

James Tweedie is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and a member of the Cinema Studies faculty at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Age of New Waves: Art Cinema and the Staging of Globalization.

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19. The 86th Annual Academy Awards Wins for Diversity

The glitz, fashion, and the glamorous parties are over, but we at LEE & LOW BOOKS are still thinking about the 86th Annual Academy Awards. We were excited to see our infographic on the diversity gap in the Academy Awards shared in several places, including the New York Times Carpetbagger blog, MSNBC’s The Grio, and Colorlines. Even Ellen started off the night with a joke about diversity (“Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave could win. Possibility number two, you’re all racists. Now please welcome our first white presenter…”). But the highlight of this year’s ceremony was seeing some big wins in diversity:

lupita nyong'o and cate blanchett

2014 Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Cate Blanchett

Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave”: Lupita Nyong’o's touching acceptance speech reminded every aspiring actor and actress that “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Cate Blanchett, Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine”: Cate Blanchett’s empowering speech was an inspiration for women everywhere, as she addressed the stereotype that “female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Steven McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron

Directors Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón, Best Director for “Gravity”: Alfonso Cuarón became the first Latino director to ever win an Oscar, and in response to a backstage interview with the world press, he said he would “love if that same support is given to some other films that are coming out of there with Mexican filmmakers, shot in Mexico, and with Mexican subject matters.”

Best Picture for “12 Years a Slave”: This film set in pre-Civil War America follows Solomon Northup, a free black man who is abducted and sold into slavery. This is the first time a film directed by a black filmmaker has won Best Picture. Director Steve McQueen dedicated the win to “all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

Congratulations are also due to Robert Lopez, the first Filipino-American ever to win an Oscar for his song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen,” and John Ridley for his Oscar for the “Twelve Years a Slave” screenplay, marking only the second time that a black screenwriter has won the award.

It was also a breath of fresh air to see new Academy Director Cheryl Boone Isaacs walk out onstage to introduce herself.

While the wins will certainly change the bleak numbers we reported last week, one year alone is not enough. Here’s hoping this year’s big wins mean more people of color in front of and behind the cameras in the future!


Filed under: Diversity Links, Musings & Ponderings, The Diversity Gap Tagged: 2014 Academy Awards, Academy Awards, diversity, diversity gap, inspiration, Lupita Nyong, Oscars

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20. Academy Reveals 21 Contenders for 2014 Sci-Tech Oscars

Last Friday the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a list of 21 scientific and technical achievements in 16 different areas, which have been selected for further awards consideration.

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21. Latvia Selects ‘Rocks in My Pockets’ As Foreign-Language Oscar Entry

The country of Latvia has selected Signe Baumane's "Rocks in My Pockets" as its entry for the best foreign-language category of the Oscars.

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22. 10 Films Shortlisted for VFX Oscar Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this afternoon the 10 films that have ben shortlisted for the visual effects Oscar.

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23. 2015 Animation Oscar Nominations: Full Coverage

We present complete coverage of the animation-related Oscar nominees for the 87th annual Academy Awards.

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24. Once again, it’s time for the “nerd categories” of the Oscar nominations

disney feast Fry 1000x418 Once again, its time for the nerd categories of the Oscar nominations

There’s quite a bit of discussion today regarding today’s Oscar nominations (I remain very sad for Ava DuVernay’s snub in the Best Director category), but let’s talk about the stuff that’s collectively of greater interest to the readership of The Beat, because there’s great work to celebrate there too!

Here are the nominations that include films that are based on comics, or have some kind of comics/cartooning based slant:

Best Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“Interstellar”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”
This seems like a shoe-in for Interstellar, though the work done on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell was pretty stunning in its own right.
Best Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6″
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2″
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

The lack of a nod for The Lego Movie is surprising given the critical and popular acclaim, but if I had to bet money on one, it’d be The Tale of Princess Kaguya. But, Big Hero 6 may surprise here, given that it was a huge hit and perhaps may have engendered more screener viewings from members of the Academy.

Best Short Film (Animated)
“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Feast”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

And regarding this category, it’s sadly one of my big blind spots. Feast, being under the Disney brand, seems a likely choice as any.

Time to get your betting pools together, the 2015 Academy Awards will be held on February 22nd.

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25. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Will Win Visual Effects Oscar, According to VFX Predictinator

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is the film to beat this year in the visual effects category, according to the VFX Predictinator.

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