‘Truth is stranger than fiction…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.’ – Mark Twain

‘Truth is stranger than …

‘Being Elmo’: Evolution of a Pop Culture Icon

This is a little indie documentary with a whole lot of heart.

Directed by Constance Marks, Being Elmo documents the life of the life force behind Elmo – Kevin Clash. It’s hard to fathom that Elmo ever existed void of Clash but there once was a time when Elmo was just another ordinary puppet and Clash was just another puppeteer working on Sesame Street.

Being Elmo charts Clash’s journey from a boy with big dreams to becoming the life force behind a pop culture phenomenon. Back in 1985, Elmo was simply a little red monster puppet. A few puppeteers had picked him up here and there include Caroll Spinney (aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch) but no one had any success in bringing the little red monster to life.

That is, until Klash and Elmo met each other. The rest is as the say history.

Being Elmo will make you laugh. Elmo is one funny little guy. But don’t expect the film not to tug a few heart strings at the same time.

Seeing the love and support that his parents intill in him is uplifting and is a great testament to their parenting.

Also touching are the mentors Clash finds in his puppeteering journey and the patience and passion they bring to passing down their art form to eager proteges like Clash.

And if neither of those points have you tearing up, maybe this one will – it’s Elmo. Sure, he’s cute and funny and is a staple of many of our childhoods. But he is also a friend and contemporary for so many kids out there and seeing their reaction to Elmo is priceless. And seeing Clash fulfilling his role as the conduit between children everywhere and Elmo, well, that’s where he really comes to life.

‘Write what you know.’ – Mark Twain

‘Write what you know.’ …

Summer Soundtrack [2012]

  1. Good Time – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
  2. Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) – Foster the People
  3. Jona Vark – Gypsy and the Cat
  4. Loves Me Not – Kris Allen & Meiko
  5. Call Your Girlfriend – Robyn
  6. Warrior – Kimbra
  7. Feel the Love – Rudimental
  8. Payphone – Maroon5
  9. Scene One (James Dean & Audrey Hepburn) – Sleeping with Sirens
  10. Oh No! (Grum Remix) – Marina and the Diamonds
  11. Summer Is Over – Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles
  12. Anna Sun – Walk the Moon
  13. Say You Like Me – We the Kings
  14. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – Babysitter’s Circus
  15. Out on My Own – Gabrielle Aplin
  16. Sebastian – Reptar
  17. Black Flies – Ben Howard
  18. Set Me on Fire – Missy Higgins
  19. 1901 – Phoenix
  20. Lego House – Ed Sheeran

Summer Book Binge

With Summer finally here and thanks to a little something called free international shipping courtesy of Better World Books, I’ve been busy book-binging on all things media:

  • Walt Disney by Bob Thomas
  • Me, Myself, & Bob by Phil Vischer
  • Movie Business Book edited by Jason Squires
  • The Mouse That Roared by Henry Giroux

Another Legend Lost

Dear Donna Summer,

I remember when I was in high school, my parents introduced me to you. They bought your Live and More Encore album. I would listen to my dad play it and thought there was some good songs. I was like this lady’s kind of good. I realize that your core demographic probably wasn’t straight teenage males, like me, but I’m not afraid to admit it, I kind of like you.

Macarthur Park, Last Dance, On the Radio, No More Tears (Enough is Enough) – all such great songs.

I even spent my very own pocket money buying your Gold compilation album, with not just one, but two discs full of Donna Summer classics. I remember the first time I heard Love’s Unkind , I identified with it straight away. And that’s all it takes to make a connection for life. One song about a shared experience and suddenly there’s a bond between two people (in this case, you and I) and even though we’ll never meet each other – this we will always share.

I’m sorry to see that you’ve gone so early. 63 is so young and I think you still had more to give. You, Whitney, Amy [Winehouse], Michael – I wish that you were all still here, doing what you do. You all had a lot to offer and while none of you remain, well, we will never forget you.

Rest in peace Donna Summer – and thanks for the music.

A Very Brief History of the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was the brainchild of then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) head, Louie B. Mayer who along with other industry heavyweights of the time founded the Academy in 1927. At the time Mayer hoped to elevate the public’s perception of film and cinema. Two years after the Academy’s founding, the first annual Academy Awards took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Only fifteen awards were given out during the brunch ceremony that day, with a lot less fanfare than the Oscars as we know them today. The winners weren’t even shocked by the ceremony’s award presentations – the Academy had already announced the winners three months earlier.

AMPAS itself is made up of more than 5,000 film industry professionals. In order to shortlist nominations, Academy members place votes in each of their respective categories (for example, actors would only place votes in acting categories). Nominations are then announced, usually in late January. Most award categories have five nominees or less, except for Best Picture which can now include up to ten films.

Only films theatrically released in Los Angeles within the previous calendar year are eligible for Academy’s consideration.

Once the nominations are confirmed, all AMPAS members are then eligible to vote in each of the award categories. These votes are then counted and the results of the winners are placed within sealed envelopes – only to be opened during the live ceremony.

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2012 Awards Season Wrapup

Every year the Academy Awards bring an end to one of the busiest times in the media industries calendar, known as ‘awards season.’ During the period of just a few months from December to February every year, the top performers in music, television, and film are celebrated and honored at a variety of ceremonies and events including the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, the BAFTA Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, and the Oscars.

The People’s Choice Awards

The People’s Choice Awards kicked off this year’s awards season. One of the most relaxed and laidback ceremonies of the season, the People’s Choice Awards celebrates performers in music, film, and television. Winners are chosen by the general public using Internet voting.

The final chapter of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was this year’s big movie winner at the People’s Choice Awards, taking home the awards for Favorite Movie, Favorite Action Movie, and Favorite Ensemble Movie Cast. Johnny Depp and Emma Stone were crowned as Favorite Actor and Favorite Actress while fan-favorite Hugh Jackman took home the award for Favorite Action Movie Star. The box office sensation Bridesmaids won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Movie.

The Golden Globes

On Sunday, January 15, the biggest ceremony, second-only to the Oscars, the 69th Golden Globe Awards took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Hosted for the third consecutive time by controversial comedian Ricky Gervais, the Golden Globes are given out by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for achievements in film and television. The Golden Globes are usually seen as a strong indicator of which films are likely to succeed at the Oscars.

The Golden Globe Awards separates their Best Motion Picture between two categories. This year The Descendants won in the Drama category while The Artist won in the Musical or Comedy category. George Clooney (The Descendants) and Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) took home the awards for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn) were both awarded Golden Globes for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

The Steven Speilberg /Peter Jackson blockbuster The Adventures of Tintin won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film.

Guild Awards

Also taking place in January and usually also seen as a strong indicator of Oscar success are the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAGs), the Producers Guild Awards (PGA), and the Directors Guild Awards (DAG). Each guild is made up of thousands of professionals working in their specific fields, in this case acting, directing, and producing. These awards are voted on by industry peers.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards has the highest profile of the three. This year’s ceremony took place at the Shrine Exposition Centre in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday, January 29. The Help was the star of this year’s SAG Awards with three wins including Best Actress (Viola Davis) and Best Cast. The Artist’s Jean Dujardin was crowned with Best Actor.

BAFTAs

Across the Atlantic in London, England, the 65th British Academy Film Awards, also known as the BAFTAs, took place Sunday, February 12, the week before the Academy Awards. The BAFTAs are organized by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, hence the name, and celebrate the best of British and mainstream international cinema.

The Artist won the BAFTA for Best Film while espionage thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy walked away with the award for Outstanding British Film. Meryl Streep continued her winning streak once again receiving the award for Leading Actress, this time, however not without a little onstage drama. As she approached the podium, Streep lost one of her shoes towards the top of the stairs. Presenter Colin Firth ran back, picked up her shoe, and placed it back on Streep’s foot, creating one of the night’s most memorable moments.

Film Independent Spirit Awards

Rounding out the awards ceremonies on the road to the Oscars was the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Held this year on the day before the Academy Awards, the Film Independent Spirit Awards honor the best of independent cinema. Independent films are defined as being produced independently of the major film studios like Warner Brothers, Sony, and Disney. To be eligible for Film Independent Spirit Awards, films also have to have a budget of less than $20 million.

Once again, The Artist won Best Feature, Best Male Actor and Best Director. Michelle Williams took away the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. The Descendants also picked up two gongs – Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley).

84th Annual Academy Awards Wrapup

This article was originally written for a film magazine, which before publication of this article, decided to cease operations. Hence, the lateness. Enjoy.

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Hollywood’s film royalty made their way to the Hollywood and Highland Center (previously known as the Kodak Theatre) Sunday, February 26, for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Affectionately know as the ‘Oscars,’ the Academy Awards are hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and are the highest accolade within the film industry.

Hosted for the ninth time by Billy Crystal, after initial host Eddie Murphy stepped down last November, this year’s Oscars drew in more than 39 million viewers within the United States alone and was broadcast to more than 100 countries around the world including Cambodia.

The year’s big winner was the silent film, The Artist. It took home the awards for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, and of course, the Oscar’s most prestigious award, Best Picture. In a surprise twist, The Artist is the first silent film since the 1st Academy Awards back in 1929 to win Best Picture.

The Oscar win has propelled The Artist into the Top 10 charts for the first time. In the US Box office sales were up 34% the weekend after the Oscars, bringing the international gross to $47 million – not bad for a film that cost less than half of that to produce.

Martin Scorsese’s big budget family film, Hugo, was the other big winner of the night, at least in terms of number of wins, walking away with five awards including Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.

Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her portrayal of former British prime minister and political figure, Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She is now one of only four other actors to have won three Oscar’s for acting achievement. She is also the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy Awards. Over her illustrious career, she has raked in seventeen acting nominations.

The most commercially successful Best Picture nominee, The Help, may not have won the coveted Best Picture award but Octavia Spencer who played Minny Jackson in the film was honored with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She gave one of the most heartfelt and emotional speeches of the night, looking visibly taken aback as she made her way to the stage.

Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor to receive an Oscar when he picked up Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris won Best Writing – Original Screenplay while Oscar favorite starring George Clooney The Descendants won Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay.

Rango beat out Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots for Best Animated Feature. Iranian film A Separation took home Best Foreign Language Film. Flight of the Concords frontman Bret McKenzie won Best Original Song for ‘Man or Muppet’ from The Muppets.

Moreso than ever this year, the media have been critical of the Academy for being out of touch with the general public. Billy Crystal has been labeled by some columnists and bloggers as being a reflection of that predictable, old-school, pretentious Hollywood attitude that the Academy Awards have come to be synonymous with. However, it seems that some critics will always have something to complain about. Last year, the Academy took a gamble with first time presenters James Franco and Anne Hathaway in an effort to rake in a younger demographic. A move that ultimately failed when the two actors were blasted for being stiff and unfunny.

This year’s opening montage once again attempted to break through to a younger audience with a special cameo appearance by Justin Bieber. However, in general, it still wasn’t enough to bring in big ratings. This year’s telecast brought in 39 million viewers in the United States as compared to the Superbowl which drew in 113 million viewers just a few weeks earlier.

Originally booked to host this year’s Oscars, Tower Heist and A Thousand Words star Eddie Murphy stepped down late last year after the resignation of Oscars telecast producer, Brett Ratner. Ratner was forced to step down after using a gay slur, which made media headlines. Murphy, who had originally been approached by Ratner to host, also stood down, feeling uncomfortable keeping the role without Ratner producing.

Cambodia Cracks Down on Copyright

Phnom Penh – With the opening of Cambodia’s first two licensed cinemas, Legend Cinemas and Sabay Cineplex, Cambodian authorities have begun to crack down on pirated DVDs. The new laws apparently came into effect at the beginning of November and prohibit vendors from selling copies of films that are currently screening at either Legend or the Cineplex.

According to sources in Sorya Mall and the Russian Market, police conducted raids earlier in the month, warning vendors of the new laws and removing copies of all currently screening movies from their shelves. Vendors were also warned of future raids which would this time include fines for stocking any of the currently screening films.

It isn’t apparent at first look, however, after closer inspection you’ll notice that there are a number of films now missing from their shelves. I see this as a positive step forward for copyright in Cambodia. There has been international pressure in the past on Cambodia for its lackluster enforcement of copyright however without a licensed cinema presence nor any availability of original media content, there has never been much incentive.

However with a burgeoning middle-class, it made sense for Cambodia to open not just one but two licensed cinemas. And now that they are here to stay, some copyright enforcement is needed in order to ensure their longterm viability.

However, change may simply be only surface-deep. As one Russian market vendor told me, and read between the lines here: “You can buy it, we just can’t sell it.