Review and Recap of the 89th Academy Awards

If there is any TV event that I have to watch, it is the Academy Awards every year. I guess because I am a filmmaker or rather an aspiring filmmaker who likes to live vicariously through something I hope to experience one day.

Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 89 Academy Awards this year. I’m not too familiar with him, as I’ve never been a fan of late night talk show. He did have some where he told Justin Timberlake that maybe he will be allowed back in NSYNC.

Admittedly, I don’t feel that I watch awards shows for entertainment.  I really only care about the winners and victory speeches.

Highlights for me included:

  1. When Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, the main cast of Hidden Figures, introduced on stage, Katherine Johnson (whom Henson played) right before presenting the documentary film.  I loved that moment, and it is great that now the whole world knows Johnson’s  story.
  2. Viola Davis’s victory speech.  I respect her so much because throughout her career, she takes the time speak out in favor of diversity and making sure that the people.
  3. The tourists who were surprised with getting to walk into the ceremony.  It was nice to see Denzel Washington “marrying” an engaged couple.  And overall, it was great that they got a chance to see the Oscars up close.
  4. It’s still kind of hard for me to process the very end of the show. La La Land as the winner of the picture, as has been widely expected throughout all of our season. Turned out a mistake was made. It was actually Moonlight that won Best Picture. I was definitely shocked to see that. It is rather unfortunate that there was one group of people who were told that they won when reality they did not, and it is also unfortunate that people who actually did win, had to be awkwardly told a mistake was made and that they did actually win.  Nonetheless, Moonlight’s win is a great moment since not too many films centering on the black experience (or the experience of people of color in general) win Oscars.  It makes me cautiously optimistic for greater diversity in Hollywood.

 

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Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of Her Final Public Television Interview on BET’s 106 & Park

This was Aaliyah’s final public interview.

On August 21, 2001, Aaliyah appeared on this show to give away the grand prize of her “Get Paid in the Escalade Contest.”  Every day for the past month, an audience member received a one thousand dollar cash prize, and was entered to win the grand prize of twenty thousand dollars in cash, and a black 2002 Cadillac Escalade SUV.

Aaliyah also announced that her next single would be “Rock the Boat” and that she would begin filming the video the next day.  A video for “More than a Woman,” which was originally intended to be her the second single from her self-titled album, had already been filmed, but she confirmed that it would be released after “Rock the Boat.”

We learn some personal information about Aaliyah.  She says that she has never owned a vehicle because living in New York means there is no point, since New York is not a car-friendly city, but she would like to have a truck if she did have her own automobile.  Her video for “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” was shown as the episode’s “old school joint,” an older music video, and Aaliyah explained that this was the only video she did in Detroit, which was where she grew up (Aaliyah was born in New York City).  Several of her friends appeared in the video.  Other of her favorite videos that she did included “One in a Million” and “Are You That Somebody?” because the latter consisted entirely of one of her favorite things: dancing.

Aaliyah also got the chance to interview some of the finalists.  She asked one young woman what she would do if she won the car.  She said she would drive to beach.  When Aaliyah asked what she would do with the money, she said that she would help her family and then  go on a shopping spree.

Eventually, the winner was chosen: a young man named Julian Hawkins.

This was really nice.  Aaliyah showed how relatable she was, and how much she loved to give back.  Of course, in hindsight, it seems bittersweet, but we saw how in her final days, she was still doing what she loved and reaching out to others.

Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Her Final Music Video “Rock the Boat” on BET’s Access Granted

This was the last footage of Aaliyah, other than the music video for “Rock the Boat.”

On August 22, 2001, Aaliyah began filming the music video in Miami.  The video was directed by Hype Williams, who has directed other videos for many hip-hop and R&B artists.

Aaliyah is in a studio filming a dance routine in front of a green screen.  The green screen would later be replaced by tidal waves in post-production.  We meet her “sister,” her very close friend, Fatimah Robinson, who created the routine.  Robinson stated that the dance moves were based on African and Caribbean (specifically Jamaican reggae and dancehall) influences.  The two also joke about how they try to please Aaliyah’s mother in making sure that the routine is not too sexy.  We also meet Aaliyah’s hair stylist and makeup artist, who wold also perish in the plane crash that happened three days later.

That night, Aaliyah films scenes underwater in a swimming pool.  The illusion is created to make it look as though she is wimming in the ocean.  She struggles to use the breathing machine, and so she holds her breath, and later, she states that it was hard, but worth the beautiful footage, they captured.

On August 24, 2001, production had since moved to Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamsa.  Aaliyah is up early in the morning to film scenes on the shore of the beach.  She says that it is painful to wake up so early to get ready for filming, but she will do anything to make a great video.

Later she films scenes under what appears to be a hut, and the next day, she films scenes on a boat.  We also see footage of some free time, where she lunges by a pool with her makeup artist.  She asks her clothing stylist to explain how he is inspired to dress her as he does.

This episode is nice, but sad, as Aaliyah and her entourage are having so much fun (despite working very hard) on this video, and yet, they have no idea that this would be the last major thing they ever do.  Filming in a tropical paradise location, and having not a care in the world, except for the work they are doing, and not knowing they would die soon, makes the tragedy all the more heartbreaking.

 

Commemoration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of Aaliyah’s Death: Recap and Review of Her Episode of MTV’s Stripped

MTV’s  Stripped was a series where celebrities were interviewed in a unique way.  Instead of a person asking them questions, they would pick their own questions to answer.  The questions would be split into various categories.  And the guest would pick up a piece of paper and talk about what is written.

The episode featuring Aaliyah is seemingly the most well-known episode, and has apparently gone viral in the years following her tragic death.  When you google  “MTV Stripped,” many of the search results are related to her episode.  On Tumblr, all of the search results are related to her episode.

The episode is nice because it shows who Aaliyah the person is.  She talks about lots of things, and she shows that she is just like any non-celebrity person.

For example, Aaliyah talks about what she does to chill.  She likes to take bubble baths, or alternately, she will read a book; she said that she was currently obsessed with Harry Potter and that she is on the second book.

Aaliyah talks about musicians she admires.  She praises a not so popular, but talented singer named Lewis Taylor.  She got starstruck when she attended a public MTV for Janet Jackson, and Stevie Wonder, a singer she is a huge fan of, asked to meet her.  And her “soul sister” Sade, who shares the same birthday, and whom she praises for never compromising who she is as an artist, even if she were to take a long hiatus.  She also expresses admiration for Britney Spears and NSYNC, especially Justin Timberlake.

Aaliyah talks about being a celebrity.  She says that she doesn’t talk about her relationships because although being a celebrity means you give up lots of privacy, she feels the need to keep at least one thing out of the public eye, and that thing is her love life.  Another thing she mentions is rumors.  Aaliyah found it funny that people claim that she has a glass eye, and that that is why she constantly wears sunglasses and covers her left eye with her hair.  But she seems annoyed when she recalled how one person asked her to her face if she has a glass eye.  The person could clearly see that she does not.

Aaliyah is not afraid be a little negative.  She expresses a fear of motorbikes.  And she refuses to talk about an embarrassing date.  She also confesses to having changed a grade on her report card from a C to an A.

Celebrity interviews can be very intersting, and it is especially nice to seem them lead the way, and to give them a chance tell us about them.  Aaliyah, because she was very relatbale made this very enjoyable.

 

Was it wrong for Disney to censor Fantasia to remove the character Sunflower?

This post is an expanded version of something I wrote on Quora.

One of the most controversial aspects of Disney’s Fantasia is the censorship of the character Sunflower from the Pastoral Symphony segment of the film.

Sunflower is a centaurette (female centaur) who is depicted as being a hybrid of a young black girl and a donkey.  She is shown performing duties as a servant to the other centaurettes who are depicted in a wide variety of pastel colors.

Beginning in the 1960s, Sunflower was deemed a racist and negative depiction of black people, and her scenes in the film were deleted.  Beginning in 1990, the scenes were restored, but the shots she was in were cropped (zoomed in) so that she could not be seen, except for one that was.  For the 2010 DVD and Blu-ray release, Some scenes had Sunflower digitally erased, and others were cropped to a smaller extent than in earlier releases, all to reduce graininess.

There is much debate over whether she should’ve been removed from the film.  There are those who say that she should be censored in order to move away from the attitude of depicting black people as negative stereotypes.  Others say that she shouldn’t be censored because such portrayals were very common in animated films of the time, and that removing them is the same as saying that they never existed in the first place.  Some believe that there should be a middle ground; in other words, for example, the late film critic Roger Ebert felt, “While the original film should, of course, be preserved for historical purposes, there is no need for the general release version to perpetrate racist stereotypes in a film designed primarily for children.”

Also of note: There are other black characters in the segment.  There are two identical unnamed centaurettes who are part young black women and part zebra and another young black girl donkey centaurette named Otika who in the original rolls out a red carpet; in all versions currently available, Otika is digitally removed so that the red carpet appears to unroll by itself, and the zebra centaurettes have never been altered or removed from the film.

Sunflower

Otika

Sunflower’s scenes can be viewed here and here.

Review and Recap of Heavenly Creatures: One of Peter Jackson’s Early Films Before The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy

This movie is based on a true story, a story that happened in director Peter Jackson’s native New Zealand in 1952-1954.

The film begins with a newsreel of Christchurch, New Zealand. It then segways to two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme running through the woods, screaming hysterically at the tops of their lungs. They make it out of the woods, covered in blood, and they reveal that Pauline’s mother Honora is dead.

The movie then flashbacks to sometime in 1952.  Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a fourteen-year-old girl.  She is very sullen, and she dis-satisfied with her life, often spending time alone.  She meets Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), a wealthy girl from England, whose family has just moved to New Zealand, and they become fast friends.  They are both excused from physical education class because of their respective health issues.  Pauline was diagnosed with osteomyelitis when she was a child, and she had to get multiple surgeries on her legs; Juliet suffered from tuberculosis, and her parents, Henry and Hilda, sent her to the Bahamas for five years during World War II in order for her to recuperate.

As the two girls grow closer and closer, they come up with their own fantasy world, Borovnia, which is inhabited by what appear to be life-sized gray plasticine sculptures that are sentient and can move around like humans.  They begin writing novels about the world together, and they plan to publish them and have them made into a series of Hollywood movies.  Juliet also tells Pauline about “the Fourth World” which she says is better than heaven and contains an appreciation of art and music.  The two girls very regularly escape from the real world into Borovnia and once into the Fourth World.

Pauline and Juliet are inseparable.  However, things start to go south.  First of all, Juliet falls ill with tuberculosis.  Her parents send her to a hospital for four months, and they leave the country.  Pauline only has limited opportunities to see Juliet in person.  Juliet feels that her hospitalization is proof that her parents don’t really care about her, as they sent her away to the Bahamas during World War II “for the good of [her] health,” as they put it, and apparently, they had no contact with her.  Pauline’s relationship with her mother also begins to deteriorate.  This is compounded when she is caught in bed with a young man who was lodging with her family.

Pauline’s parents become concerned with their daughter’s obsessive friendship with Juliet.  Honora takes her to the doctor who tells her that she may be homosexual (at the time, of course, homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness), but that it’s only a “phase” that will go away.

One night, Juliet catches her mother, Hilda having sex with another man.  She tries to blackmail her mother, but Hilda reveals that her father already knows, and that her lover, one of her clients, will be staying in their home temporarily.  Henry reveals that he and Hilda are getting divorced.  Pauline is there to comfort Juliet when she hears the news.  Henry also reveals that he is leaving the family home.  Juliet is unwilling stay with her mother, and Henry reveals that Juliet will be moving to South Africa to live with an aunt so that the warmer South African client will be “for the good of [her] health.”

Pauline and Juliet are devastated about being separated.  They both want go to South Africa together, but they are told that that’s impossible.  None of their parents will allow it.  They conclude that Honora is the obstacle standing in their way, and they make plans to murder her.

One day, Honora invites Pauline and Juliet on a picnic in the woods.  While Honora is distracted, they hit her on the head with a brick, and continue doing so until she is dead.  The two girls are charged with murder.  Since they are minors, they can’t be sentenced to death.  Instead, they are sentenced to an indefinite term in prison or as the court put it “ at Her Majesty’s pleasure.”  After five years, Juliet and Pauline are released from prison on the condition that they never contact each other ever again.

This is where the movies ends; however, in real life, they moved on with their lives…without each other.  According to Wikipedia:

Trial and aftermath[edit]

The trial was a sensational affair, with speculation about their possible lesbianism and insanity. The girls were convicted on 28 August 1954, and each of them spent five years in prison as they were too young to be considered for the death penalty. Some sources say they were released with the condition that they never contact each other again,[3] but Sam Barnett, then Secretary for Justice, told journalists there was no such condition.[4]

The murder was touched upon as strong evidence of moral decline less than four months later by the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents in what became known as the Mazengarb Report, named after its chair, Ossie Mazengarb.

After her release from prison, Juliet Hulme spent time in the United States and later began a successful career as a historical detective novelist under her new name, Anne Perry. She has been a Mormon since about 1968.[5] The fact that Perry and Hulme were the same person was not well-known until 1994. In March 2006, Perry argued that while her relationship with Pauline Parker was obsessive, they were not lesbians.[6]

Pauline Parker spent some time in New Zealand under close surveillance before being allowed to leave for England. As of 1997, she was living in the small village of Hoo near Strood, Kent, and running a children’s riding school.[7] As an adult, she became a Roman Catholic. She expressed strong remorse for having killed her mother and for many years refused to give interviews about the murder.[7]

I learned about the case a few years ago.  I thought that it would make an excellent movie.  Then I found out that it was made into a movie.  I found it on Netflix, and I watched it.

I found it fascinating to watch the story of a close friendship unfold.  As I said in a few previous posts, I find it very enjoyable to see movies that are about close, intimate relationships between two people, whether familial, platonic, or romantic.

The story really pulls you into the world that the girls created for themselves.  It is fascinating to see the depictions of Borovnia, and how real it was to them.  The film also shows how friendship can go wrong, and how unhealthy and destructive it can be.

I think what I can take from the movie is that it is wonderful to feel close to someone, to have to one true, close, deep friend.  But you can’t let a friendship allow you to harm others.

 

 

 

Recap and Review of The Fault in Our Stars (The Film Adaptation of the Book)

The Book About the Teens With Cancer.  That’s what people may think of The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s really not.  It’s a story about life, love, and loss.  It’s a story about how we deal with bad, unfair circumstances.

I was introduced to the book by my sister, and I only read the first chapter.  This spring, I saw the film adaptation.  It was quite enjoyable.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs, rendering unable to breath without oxygen tanks.  She takes experimental medication that has helped to prolong her life.  Her parents force her to attend a support group for teens with cancer, and she meets the free-spirited Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), who lost his lower right leg to bone cancer, and has a prosthesis.

As the two become close, they bond over Hazel’s favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, which is about a a young girl who dies from cancer.  Confused over the abrupt ending, Augustus convinces Hazel to email the author Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe), who lives in Amsterdam, to inquire about the meaning of the ending.  He emails back and invites Hazel to come to visit him.  Augustus is able to obtain tickets from a charity, and things are all set.

Hazel is excited, but then she gets hospitalized.  Her doctors are unwilling to let her travel, but they are soon convinced.  While in Amsterdam, Hazel and Augustus have a romantic dinner, paid for by Van Houten, and the the next they meet Van Houten, but he rudely dismisses them.  His assistant (who arranged everything that Hazel and Augustus did) makes up for it by taking them to the Anne Frank House, and while there, inspired by a recording of Frank’s words, they kiss.  That night, they have sex for the first time, but the following morning Augustus reveals that his cancer has returned and is terminal, having spread throughout his body.  He is going to die.

Back at home, Augustus and Hazel struggle to cope with Augustus’s impending death, as his health deteriorates.  With his best friend Isaac (Nat Wolff), who lost both of his eyes to cancer, Hazel throws a pre-funeral for him.  Shortly afterwards, Augustus dies after the cancer spreads to his heart, stopping it in the process.  Naturally, Hazel is devastated.

At Augustus’s funeral, she sees Van Houten.  It tuns out that Augustus insisted that he attend his funeral as a way to make amends for how he treated him and Hazel.  He  explains that the main character of his book was based on his own daughter who died from cancer.  He also gives her a piece of paper.  Hazel balls the piece of paper up, but later she learns from Isaac that Van Houten helped Augustus write a eulogy for her.  She finds the paper and reads it.  She is moved by his words and is happy that she knew him.

I saw this movie because it was assigned by my my professor in my Interpersonal Communication class as an example of how relationships unfold and develop.

What I liked about the film was that it was full of purely honest emotion.  It was not sappy or melodramatic like lots of films concerning such subject matter.  Cancer was an important part of the characters’ development, but it did not define them, and it did not seek to make them perfect or saintly or the like.  What made the movie special was that it was realistic, it was not saccharine, and it was about living life in spite of its difficulties.