THE TREE OF LIFE

At the Oscars, it's hip to be square

At the Oscars, it's hip to be square

The Los Angeles Times just posted a massive investigation into the demographics of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 5,765 largely anonymous voters who every year decide who will receive the highly coveted and ultra-influential Oscars. Their findings, which will come as a shock to no one who has watched the Oscars at any point in the last 25 years, revealed a membership that is very old and very uncool. 94% of Academy voters are white; 77% are male. 54% are over the age of 60; just 2% are under the age of 40.

Hey, Oscar! Don't forget these performances!

Hey, Oscar! Don't forget these performances!

The illustrious Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24, which gives the choosers ample time to read my urgent plea for them to not leave out some of my favorite people!

After all, I care about the Oscars more than life itself, so ignoring my longings would be as sadistically ill-advised as some of the performances that are already locks.

So now that I have the nominators’ attention, I’ll step up and scream the following:

Valuing the unexpected in cinema

Valuing the unexpected in cinema

Yesterday, a brand new crop of Filmmaking MFA students appeared before me at Ohio University, as suddenly as Fall weather. It’s that time – August is gone, baby, and us teachers are back in the classroom. One exercise conducted yesterday involved each person articulating what he or she values in the cinema – not a specific type of character or scene, but a methodology, strategy or approach that can be identified from film to film. I noted a pattern: many valued the experience of feeling surprised – when the storyteller crafted moments that veered from a familiar course with either plot or character (INCENDIES, above, does just this). Our collective expectations have been molded through years of watching films, so an innovation of form, complexity of plot or sophistication of character truly do deserve value. I thought back to my own summer movie-going experiences and measured how a few stacked up. Watch out, hold up – the teacher is giving out grades:

Brad Pitt and parenting in the movies, part 2

Brad Pitt and parenting in the movies, part 2

I recently posted on THE TREE OF LIFE, the Terrence Malick lush-fest that has been blowing minds – like explosions in space – since its recent release. I wrote about the film and parenting, a subject that comes up infrequently if you Google the two terms together. After a few conversations with friends, I’d like to follow up. And yes, full disclosure, I’m a parent of two boys (7 and 2), and a filmmaker too (SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS), so both are equally relevant. (Did I just equate my love for my children to my love for movies? The parent police should be at my door momentarily.)

Terrence Malick and … parenting

Terrence Malick and … parenting

I saw THE TREE OF LIFE last night at the Sunshine Theatre in New York, and no surprise here – I loved it. As an urbanite at heart and decades-long Malick fan, I went in expecting to like it, and this epic look at life through lenses both broad and narrow did not disappoint. Here’s one revelation: if a twenty-something newbie director had paired dinosaurs with the intimate story of one Texas family, I very well may have balked. But I’ve been in a relationship with Malick for years now, and I trust him. I’d go anywhere with the guy, so cuts between sunshine-drenched babies draped in gauzy white to (next shot) an exploding star deep within space seem amazing, not pretentious. The scope of the project and its ability to move between things small and large feels truly groundbreaking. The one thing I was not expecting from the film was its specific meditation on parenting. In detailing small moments in the daily lives of the adoring-playful Mother and the adoring-stern Father (Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt), Malick paints a stark contrast between child-rearing approaches but is never overtly critical. As a friend said, it was the most patient and thorough examination of the small trials of parenting that she’s seen on the screen (and the day after with her own kids was more or less a misty-eyed affair), as the film ultimately asks us to cherish the living through all the small struggles and heart aches – especially if they happen to be our progeny.