Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Dance Like Somebody’s Watching: Director Juanjo Giménez on His Short Film Timecode

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This comes roughly two weeks after my review, and I made the most of the occasion by trying to unpack so much of what I enjoyed about this particular piece of work. While I was only able to ask so many questions, I hope that Giménez’s answers help shine a little light on why Timecode was considered for this great honour, as well as why it might deserve it.


To start with, it’s almost no surprise that Timecode was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Goya Award given your impressive filmography. Has having written, directed, and produced so much award-winning work changed your approach with each new project?

I don’t think so. I think that no filmmaker thinks about awards or recognition when making a new film. In our case, financing every new project has always been difficult, even if the previous film has been a successful one. The only thing that is essential for approaching a new project is the need to make it.

 It’s notable that much of the work you’ve received the most attention for are your short films. What is it that appeals to you about that particular format?

Timecode is my ninth short film as director. I learned that short films usually fit the way I approach filmmaking better. And what’s more important, there’s nothing wrong with that! That doesn’t mean I won’t make a feature film again, but shorts provide a great platform for experimenting without the financial struggles that usually constrain a fiction feature. Even if I speak as a producer, in terms of financial results, my shorts have always been more profitable than my features.  Continue reading

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The Power of Twitter Showcased at the Oscars: #OscarsSoWhite, #YesAllWomen, and #AskHerMore

Twitter has changed the way news is reported. The Black Lives Matter movement has been particularly successful in raising awareness for cases of police brutality that generally would have been overlooked by mainstream news channels.

Arguably the second most important aspect of Twitter is its ability to connect celebrities to their fan base. With the prevalence of these two features, it’s hardly surprising that celebrities and celebrity events have become more politicized.

This year’s Academy Awards are a prime example of this overlap between the celebrity world and political struggles that have been highlighted via Twitter. Below, I’ve included a few notable examples of Twitter flexing its muscles at the Oscars

#OscarsSoWhite

I’m not going to dwell too much on the circumstances of the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, since Gordon and Evan have already thoroughly explained its context. However, I do want to talk a bit about how the controversy was handled by the Oscars host, Chris Rock.

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Overall, I thought Rock did a great job calling out the Academy without reducing his monologue to a humourless lecture. However, in his article for Salon, Arthur Chu points out that,

Acting like caring about day-to-day violence in the streets and the impact media and culture have on that violence are somehow mutually exclusive — a common, frustrating, tired argument anyone who talks about racism in media will inevitably see dozens of times in the comments section — ignores history.

It ignores the many, many arguments that have been made about how the excuses made for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown frequently come verbatim from untrue stereotypes out of TV and movies, how the only way Darren Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” who was “bulking up to get through the bullets” could possibly make sense to anyone is after a lifetime of media portrayals of the scary superhuman black man. It ignores Martin Luther King going out of his way to call Nichelle Nichols and tell her not to quit “Star Trek” because having a black woman on TV who wasn’t a domestic servant mattered. It ignores the ongoing civil rights protests around the Oscars back in the 1960s and ’70s, including Marlon Brando making history as the first and only best actor winner to boycott the ceremony, sending American Indian Movement activist Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award in his place.

Similarly, several activists have since pointed out the one-dimensionality of calling for more black representation only to appeal to Asian-American stereotypes for a laugh. Continue reading

Angoulême, #OscarsSoWhite, and the Possibility of Change

I had initially planned on permanently shelving this blog post, for the most part due to the fact that I felt the two incidents I was comparing had come and gone, and I try to stay topical. Then recently Facebook notified me that Kate Winslet not boycotting the Oscars was trending, and just today that acclaimed director Steven Spielberg had some thoughts about the awards ceremony. It appears that a discussion that began with the continuing hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is far from over.

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I wanted to call Chris Rock the one bright spot in this upcoming Academy Awards, but the irony was too much.

This may surprise you, but the focus of this particular blog post isn’t race. It is about social justice in general, though [just because this pony has more than one trick doesn’t mean that he has a lot of them]. Social justice is ultimately concerned with change, a positive transformation of our society, and is more often than not battling against the presumption that this is impossible. I’m going to be covering two somewhat recent events, both surrounding awards shows, that prove it’s not. Continue reading

Black to the Oscars

Well readers, it was exactly one week ago that actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced her decision not to attend this year’s Academy Awards, citing a distinct lack of diversity in the nominees. In a brief video [embedded below], Pinkett Smith expressed her frustration at the apparent exclusion of people of color in the “mainstream”, and declared that “…begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity.”


Upon hearing this, the nation has since had a moment of quiet reflection over the issues Miss Pinkett Smith has brought up, calmly and honestly discussing the root issues facing the representation of-

Nah, I’m just kidding. People went ape****.

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Cue the torrent of self-righteous indignation as folks started positively shrieking about reverse-racism, hypocrisy, and entitlement. And as more and more figures have come out in support of (or at least, sympathy with) Pinkett Smith’s cause, the outrage has only grown with it. It seems that you can’t go anywhere online without running into something like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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For the record, the stats on this lead to incorrect conclusions- but we can talk about that later.

Continue reading

Shame Day: Hollywood and the VFX Industry

Let me begin this by saying that I did not watch the Oscars on Sunday night. I made a little joke on Facebook about how I didn’t have to because everyone else was doing it for me, and 14 people liked it, so I’m pretty funny. Anyway, let’s move this along.

Ang Lee’s adaptation of the Yann Martel novel Life of Pi won the award for best VFX [visual effects], which I can only imagine was deserved because, well, I have not seen it. Bill Westenhofer, the VFX supervisor for Rhythm and Hues Studios, was giving his acceptance speech when he was cut off by music, as pointed out by Variety’s David S. Cohen:

Word on the street is that this is because of what he was about to talk about. See, it would be wonderful for Rhythm and Hues that they received so much promotion due to winning an Academy Award if they weren’t bankrupt. Westenhofer had planned on addressing the crisis within the industry during his speech, and was thankfully able to voice his thoughts afterwards to writer Bill Desowitz for his blog, where he said:

At a time when visual effects movies are dominating the box office, that visual effects companies are struggling.  And I wanted to point out that we aren’t technicians.  Visual effects is not just a commodity that’s being done by people pushing buttons.  We’re artists, and if we don’t find a way to fix the business model, we start to loses the artistry.  If anything, Life of Pi shows that we’re artists and not just technicians.

During his acceptance speech for best director Ang Lee forgot to thank his VFX collaborators at Rhythm and Hues, which prompted a letter from Phillip Broste, the lead compositor at Zoic Studios. It’s quite long, but I feel like quoting two of the last few paragraphs, because they really say quite a lot:

Mr. Lee, I do believe that you are a thoughtful and brilliant man. And a gifted filmmaker.  But I also believe that you and everyone in your tier of our business is fabulously ignorant to the pain and turmoil you are putting artists through.  Our employers scramble to chase illegal film subsidies across the globe at the behest of the film studios.  Those same subsidies raise overhead, distort the market, and cause wage stagnation in what are already trying economic times.  Your VFX are already cheaper than they should be.  It is disheartening to see how blissfully unaware of this fact you truly are.

By all accounts, R+H is a fantastic place to work; a truly great group of people who treat their employees with fairness and respect.  Much like Zoic Studios, the fabulous company that I am proud to work for.  But I am beginning to wonder if these examples of decency will be able to survive in such a hostile environment.  Or if the horror stories of unpaid overtime and illegal employment practices will become the norm, all because you and your fellow filmmakers “would like it to be cheaper.”

It’s no mystery that most summer blockbusters these days are built on the backs of animators, artists who spend hours upon hours trying to perfect the texture of wood grain or the way light reflects off of the ocean. Rhythm and Hues won two awards for Life of Pi, both the Academy Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Special Effects; they won both awards in 2007-2008 for The Golden Compass. This studio going bankrupt is like . . . . well . . . . an award-winning studio running out of money because they weren’t getting paid enough.

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People who work in VFX are just as much artists as painters, musicians, and photographers, and all have the right to be fairly compensated for their work. Good art takes time and effort, and if Hollywood refuses to give those in VFX the respect and money that they deserve then we need to let them know how wrong they are. Tell people about what’s happening, tweet with the hashtag #VFXprotest, check out VFX Solidarity International, and don’t be okay with Samuel L. Jackson talking over Robert Downey Jr. just because you like the guy as an actor: