Academy Awards 2012 – the French Connection and more

by Karen Topakian

While watching last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, I was struck by the international tone of the winners. Particularly the French connection.

I’m not sure what it means except this year’s Hollywood winners weren’t dominated by the usual Hollywood glitterati. For a welcome change.

Here’s the breakdown.

Actress in a supporting role – Octavia Spencer – an African American woman portraying a maid

Actor in a supporting role – Christopher Plummer – a British man portraying a gay man

Actress in a leading role – Meryl Streep – a Caucasian-American woman portraying a British prime minister

Actor in a leading role – Jean Dujardin – a French man portraying an American actor

Best picture, Directing, Costume Design, Music (Original Score) – The Artist – a French-made movie about Hollywood

Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects – Hugo – An American-made movie set in Paris

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)- The Descendents – an American-made movie set in Hawaii

Writing (Original Screenplay) – Midnight in Paris – an American-written movie set in Paris

Animated Feature Film – Rango – an American-made movie set in the Wild West

Documentary Feature – Undefeated – an American movie about a US football team

Documentary Short – Saving Face – a Pakistani-made movie about Pakistani women

Film Editing – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – a movie set in Sweden

Makeup – The Iron Lady – an American-made movie about a British Prime Minister

Music (Original Song) – The Muppets – an American-made movie set in the US

Short Film (Animated) – The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – an American-made movie

Short Film (Live Action) – The Shore – an Irish-made movie set in Ireland

Best Foreign Language film – A Separation – an Iranian-made movie set in Iran

Summer movies – the real story

by Karen Topakian

1. A Horse of a Different Color  Twelve year old Donnie fights prejudice on and off the field to follow his dream to race his white horse in a national tournament. Fake I made up the plot line

2. The Tree   In rural Australia, an 8-year old girl comes to believe that the spirit of her dead father inhabits a giant fig tree near her house. True Morgana Davies plays the part of the 8-year old girl. With Charlotte Gainsbourg. Directed by Julie Bertucelli.

3. Ball Joint  A documentary centered on the lives of the orthopedic surgeons for the Brazil National Football team. Fake I made it up.

4. The Names of Love  From France, the tale of a free-spirited woman who converts conservatives to liberalism by sleeping with them, until she hits a roadblock with a recalcitrant scientist. True, starring Sara Forestier and Jacques Gamblin. Directed by Michel Leclerc.

5. Trollhunter  Learning that a government conspiracy has kept the truth about trolls from the Norwegian public. A group of film students sets out to uncover the facts. True. Directed by Andre Ovredal.

6. Feng My Shui  Three rejected fraternity pledges seek revenge by posing as the frat house’s new interior decorators. Fake, I made it up.

Summer movies. Which are real? Which are fake?

by Karen Topakian

Last Sunday the New York Times printed a brief synopsis along with release dates of upcoming summer movies. I read the list with horror and delight. Some seemed preposterous, others enchanting, several sound too stupid.

Please find below six movie synopses. Three are real. Three are fake. Guess which is which. No checking Google to find the answers.

Here goes:

1. A Horse of a Different Color  Twelve year old Amy fights prejudice on and off the field to follow her dream to race her white horse in a national tournament.

2. The Tree   In rural Australia, an 8-year old girl comes to believe that the spirit of her dead father inhabits a giant fig tree near her house.

3. Ball Joint  A documentary centered on the lives of the Brazil National Football team’s orthopedic surgeons.

4. The Names of Love  From France, the tale of a free-spirited woman who converts conservatives to liberalism by sleeping with them, until she hits a roadblock with a recalcitrant scientist.

5. Trollhunter  Learning that a government conspiracy has kept the truth about trolls from the Norwegian public. A group of film students sets out to uncover the facts.

6. Feng My Shui  Three rejected fraternity pledges seek revenge by posing as the frat house’s new interior decorators.

The Clay Theater Needs You

by Karen Topakian

If you’re an SF movie lover, who still goes to the movies (instead of using Netflix), one of our cherished single screen theaters, the Clay, is about to close. On Sunday August 29th.

This 100-year old theater in the fabulous Fillmore district stands ready to shutter its doors.

True, it’s hard to keep a single screen theater open these days. But this one has a plan. The 54-year-old San Francisco Film Society wants to buy the theater and continue to program a mix of international, independent and documentary films along with mini-festivals, screenings with panels, talks and filmmakers.

The only thing stopping them is a breakdown in communications with the landlord Balgobind Jaiswal.

Just remember, the Clay premiered John Waters outrageously hysterical Pink Flamingo. Ain’t that reason enough to help out?

Here are two things you can do today.

1. Take a moment to urge the landlord (Balgobind Jaiswal c/o Blu, 2259 Fillmore Street, SF 94115) to continue negotiations to keep this century old icon alive and well in San Francisco. Yes, that means writing a letter and putting a stamp on it.

2. Go to a movie theater instead of watching one at home. Enjoy a film experience the way the filmmaker intended. In a dark quiet theater. Try it. I guarantee you’ll like it.

12 Angry Men

by Karen Topakian

 

The other night, my partner Peg and I watched this 1957 Sydney Lumet classic about 12 jurors. All men. Who must determine the guilt of a young man accused of killing his father.

All but three minutes of this 96-minute film take place in a 16 by 24 foot jury room. On a day that is predicted to be the hottest on record. Each of the three windows sits closed unless two men can heave them up open. The single wall-mounted fan remains still. And the stifling New York City heat permeates. They sweat and sit and talk; pontificate, lecture and question and accuse until they reach a unanimous verdict.

Twelve men without names, only numbers. Most of them wearing white shirts ties and jackets. All walked in the room prepared to vote guilty. Except one.

One who isn’t sure. One who wants to talk about it. One who believes that with a young man’s life hanging in the balance, the least they can do is discuss it. This juror, number 8, raises a few questions. Some things don’t sit right with him. He’s not completely sure. He doesn’t think the prosecution’s evidence stacks up quite so neatly. The discussion begins: despite the hoots and hollers of those who are truly committed to the young man’s guilt. Either by the evidence or by their own prejudices about “people like him.”

The story is a simple one with a strong message. Number 8, played by Henry Fonda, simply asks questions. Employing a mild mannered tone without affect or animosity. With fortitude and conviction, he is leadership in action. The unanimous vote unravels.

The courage of his one voice requires examination. How many times have we served on committees or boards or juries or even amongst friends and family where a decision was made without a voice raised to oppose, to question, to discuss?

How many of us went along because we didn’t want to take the time or waste time. Didn’t want to be the lone voice or weren’t sure of what we thought, so said nothing.

Most of our group decisions aren’t made with a young life on the line. But if they were would we be ready and able to speak up if we never had before?