Tuesday, February 28, 2012


JER: Sunday February 26th 2012 brought us the 84th Annual Academy Award presentation. It was, as is the annual tradition, a special and revered night that I always look forward to dearly. Some people start viewing football off-season and review players trading off to other teams, baseball players and how their early pre-season games fair…but I look at an entire year’s worth of hopefuls and begin picking- off or highlighting the films that begin filling in the slots that would garner the nominations and eventually win the coveted Oscar.

In review, let’s begin from the start and move on through to the anticipated finale.

Host Billy Crystal
The Host: Billy Crystal returned for his ninth appearance as host. Based off of his previous gigs, it had always been a sure bet that you got a full show of humor and hijinx with Mr. Crystal…yet, something didn’t quite jell this year. An older (63) Billy kept getting in the way and didn’t quite deliver enough punches as previous turns had seen. What was to blame? Possibly the eight year span since he last hosted back in 2004? Let’s just blame it on the fact that maybe it had been far too long since he had been on stage anywhere and needed to get his feet wet or re-learn how to peddle on that old bike again. If so, couldn’t he had found a playground to practice on before show time in front of…oh, I don’t know… millions of people?! Not really sure but it felt as if the hosting played ‘safe’ and didn’t take too many jabs at the expense of the honored guests or the industry they worked for, as he’d been known to do so in the past. The unfortunate thing that kept my interest focused on Crystal was to help answer the question that touted me throughout the course of the evening: Was he wearing a toupee or did he just have a really bad hair-dye job! Ouch!

Winner of 5 Awards: HUGO
Highlights: The Tech Winners: Not too many people know or even care about such categories like Sound Editing or Art Direction, but the Academy seems to think that the majority of the viewing audience does. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am not alone in the appreciation of such awards and many do really care, including me. But let’s be honest… the numbers would probably end with lots of zeros if a survey was taken about your least favorite nominations to which the reply would lean back towards the tech awards probably ranking up there along with Documentary Short and Live Action Short Film. I, however, am not speaking on behalf of the general public but rather of my own thoughts and opinions and I am always intrigued by the nominations and the wins. HUGO kicked off the winning trend in a big way…almost in an undefeated blaze of awards gathered that included Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Cinematography and Art Direction. That’s where the magic of HUGO would end totaling five wins from its high ranking eleven.
The trailer for Martin Scorsese's HUGO

Honorable Mention: The Governors Awards: Allow me to clarify this ceremony and its significance. Since 2009, the Governors Awards are a private and separate AMPAS (Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science)- hosted presentation that include the bestowing of the Irving Thalberg Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Academy Honorary Award. To help save time on the already lengthy ceremony of today, these awards are now distributed on its own special night in the Governors’ Ballroom located on the corner of Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles. Oprah Winfrey received the Humanitarian Award, but the real winners I would like to highlight are two men who have made personal impacts in my life.

Honoree Dick Smith with Rick Baker
 Academy Honorary Award Winner: Dick Smith: He may not be a household name, but his contribution in Special Effects and the films he has worked on are both respected and highly recognized. His Make- Up Effects can be both enjoyed and thrilled by in THE EXORCIST, THE GODFATHER and his Award winning effects in AMADEUS. Mr. Smith is the architect that interned a young Rick Baker before he would go on to win his own respected Academy Awards in the field for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and most recently THE WOLFMAN. For me, I expressed a serious interest in becoming a Make-Up Special Effects artist and found Mr. Smith to be an inspiration and a career I closely followed and continually remained awe with at his works of art on the screen for years to come.

James Earl Jones and Jer! (early 90's)
Academy Honorary Award Winner: James Earl Jones: For his brilliance in performances both in film and on stage, Mr. Jones is as powerful an actor as is his distinctive baritone tones that will always be best recognized as the voice of Darth Vader in the STAR WARS series. His acting credits span a variety of different genres and characters throughout his career including his nominated role in THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, COMING TO AMERICA, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and FIELD OF DREAMS. Having had the pleasure to have met Mr. Jones in person, I can only describe him as a towering but gentle giant. He does leave you in a sense of unworthiness, yet a man with a warm disposition that is personable and welcoming. Here is to both of you and congratulations!

Highlights: The Performance Awards: The evening proved to be one of passing out the right awards to those I felt deservingly should receive and not have a singular film sweep all of the majors.

Best Foreign Language Film: It came as no surprise to many that Iran’s submitted A SEPERATION would win this year. Crossing many tabooed barriers, the film deals with an Iranian couple dealing with real- life decisions during a break-up in their marriage… hardly a topic of discussion within certain religious channels. Writer/ Director Asghar Farhadi was moved by the award and accepted the Oscar on behalf of the Iranian community.
The fantastic and thrilling trailer for A SEPERATION

Best Picture: THE ARTIST won the prestigious award for 2011 as well as five of its ten nominations. You will remember Johnny Chazz bringing this film to our attention back late last year and our predictions soon followed. This was my film of choice. What makes THE ARTIST so unique and ground-breaking is that it is the first silent film since 1929’s WINGS to win a Best Picture award. Two of the other wins went to Best Costume Design and to Ludovic Bource’s Best Original Score whose music accompanied the film from start to finish, a typical expectancy during the silent era.

Jean Dujardin: Best Actor- THE ARTIST
Best Actor: Another ‘first’ is Jean Dujardin’s win, due to the fact that a Frenchman had never won the award previously. Dujardin was probably a surprise to many as the ‘sure bet’ seemed to had leaned towards George Clooney for THE DESCENDANTS. As Silent film star George Valentin, Dujardin dug into the very heart of the genesis of being an actor: relying solely on emotion, body language and facial characteristics to relay to an audience what needed to be said without saying it. Being that THE ARTIST is considered a foreign film of its own, a number of barriers were broken to convey what needed to be said on the screen and not rely on subtitles or dubbing over of original voices. It proved to be a literal spanking to all actors globally.

Michel Hazanavicius: Best Director- THE ARTIST
Best Director: Rounding off the fifth win for THE ARTIST was given to Michel Hazanavicius. His contribution to the film went beyond that of telling actors what to do… this was Hazanavicius’ baby. He wrote the story and script and had his wife, Best Supporting Actress nominee Berenice Bejo, co-star as Peppy Miller. Michel said that this was an homage to the Golden Age of Cinema, a time highly respected with many films making its way to his native France to be enjoyed. It was a long road for a Parisian to make it to Hollywood, but the journey was made and completed! Tres Bien, Monsieur!
It's Offical: Best Picture of 2011- THE ARTIST!
Meryl Streep: Best Actress
Best Actress: Wowing an audience was Meryl Streep’s win for her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY. Streep herself was genuinely taken back as well since the odds seemed to favor Viola Davis in THE HELP. Her acceptance was 30 years in the making since her last Best Actress win for SOPHIE’S CHOICE in 1982. Streep jokingly poked fun at the occasion stating that she knew the viewing audience wasn’t expecting her to take the award this year… she then blew it off with a calm reply, “Oh well.”

Plummer and Davis: Supporting Winners

BestSupporting Roles: If there is such a thing as a ‘sure bet’, then it definitely belonged to the two actors, respectfully, who won in these categories. Octavia Spencer nabbed Best Supporting Actress for her memorable portrayal of Southern housekeeper Minny Jackson in THE HELP. The role seemed tailor-fit for Ms. Spencer and would have been considered unconceivable to imagine anyone else in the role. The Best Supporting Actor award went to 82 year old Christopher Plummer in BEGINNERS. Mr. Plummer’s win marks the oldest living actor to receive the Academy Award. The previous title was held by Jessica Tandy, who was 80 year old when she won Best Actress in 1991 for DRIVING MISS DAISY.

Lengthy, enjoyable, boring or exhilarating might be but a few adjectives used to describe the three and a half hour presentation, but one thing stands above it all: OSCARS! The glitz, the glamour and the surprise few words that follow the opening of the envelope as everyone holds tight for the reply as the presenter says, “And the Oscar goes to…”
Highlight: Billy Crystal's funny Opening Montage with film clips

What was your take on the winners or losers this year? Did your favorites win and did you feel a grave oversight was made? Please chime in and give us your opinions and comments. Please check back with us when JOHNNY CHAZZ selects the next topic of film discussion on Wednesday March 14, 2012!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Georges Melies': VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (1902)
JOHNNY CHAZZ: So often here on CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT we spend time focusing on specific films and the particular cinematic aspects associated with each. We dive into the details of script, production, sets, performance, cinematography, editing and so on. Rarely though do we take a moment to step back and examine a phenomenon which has always amazed me: The ability for films to place each of us into a “hypnotic” state where we as audience members have completely bought-into the experience on screen and are no longer conscious of the fact that we are sitting in a seat inside a movie theater. What is key is to remember that the subconscious mind is truly “accepting”, and it is often this level of consciousness where people are affected and changed at the inner core of their being. Oh, the power of film.

Remember “Mulholland Drive” in 2000? The scene inside of Club Silencio shows us two characters sitting inside a “movie-like” theater / playhouse watching a performance that not only do they know is strictly a “performance”, but the host even makes it clear time and time again that everything they see on stage is just an illusion. Still, the characters completely buy-into what they see and it is the inter-weavings and power of the lighting, the costumes, the music and the performance that leave our characters in such an emotional and hypnotic state. Oh, the power of theater.

Visit 'Club Silencio' in this clip from MULLHOLLAND DR.

We see it in other films that are simply too far-fetched for the conscious mind, yet we still believe and react to what we see. Examine “El Topo” from 1970 for a moment when the colonel says “Who are you to judge me?” and the response from our main character is: “I am God”. Now we know this cannot be true, but the journey that the film has led us on takes us to a point where we absolutely must believe what we hear from beginning to end in the film. Oh, the power of desire.
In 1980, audiences experienced “Altered States” with William Hurt. Aren’t we all, in a sense as audience members, placed into a tank or isolation chamber such as a movie theater and given a hallucinatory drug to realize the full effect of the experience? What a tremendous monologue by Hurt when he states: “There’s a physiological pathway to our earlier consciousnesses. There has to be.” Oh, the power of dreams.

Fantasy genre films act in the same fashion. Films such as the recent “Avatar” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” were truly outstanding examples of a film that was too “incredible” for the conscious mind to fathom, yet the director’s ability to use tools such as color, light, sound, sets, music, effects, CGI and more forces the audience into a trance state.

In 1966, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” stunned audiences with such graphic language and scenes, yet we all bought-in. Why? The realism. The script punched audiences in the face like an angry-fist. It was the hypnotic patters of language and story-telling that grabbed us. It was the combination of script and performance that elevated this genre to a point where audiences simply do not like to think of actor’s really “acting” – rather that they are drawing from something deep-down inside of themselves that really illuminates their performance on screen to the point where it becomes real. One only needs to take a look at the performance by Sandy Dennis where she says “I like to dance….and you don’t want me to dance.” It is purely gripping – and audiences at this point of the film have completely consigned to oblivion in respect to the real world at this point.

Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” would later follow in 1966 causing another wrinkle in the hearts, minds and ultimately – the consciousness of film-goers.

Adult films also qualify. Do we as audiences not have a vested interest in what we see on the screen? Laugh if you will, but there is little doubt in my mind that avid viewers of these films and fans of this genre allow this vehicle to completely transport them into another type of consciousness – and desire for that matter. The outside world is forgotten and all of our problems have completely melted away.

Film is a vehicle. Placed in Lehman’s terms: Film hypnotizes us without us knowing it. As a matter of fact, the great films should always strive to tap into the subconscious mind of the audience while creating an “altered state”. For a film to simply be brilliant it must utilize traces of realism combined with touches of abstract expressionism per se to create enough balance that audiences will want to become deeply involved. Casting, script, lighting, sound, effects and editing remain crucial to the process. What remains constant is that in order for the movie-making industry to continue to offer audiences the full experience of “escape”, and to begin giving us this drug all over again, we simply have to care about the subject and the specific motivation of characters on screen. I just do not see films doing this in this era of today.

Allow me now to turn this topic over to Jer to respond to along with two (2) questions attached: “Do you feel that films today are truly placing audiences in a hypnotic state”? Finally, what films over the years do you feel have been most effective at transporting your conscious state into a dream-like state?
JER: I applaud your decision to go with this topic and stay within the boundaries of safely selecting yet another film recommendation or other familiar go-to’s. Before I take a turn in the recognition of our topic, let me address the questions at hand.
The first question proposed: “Do you feel that films today are truly placing audiences in a hypnotic state”? Reply? Only a very minor and select few are able to successfully drive the mind into a location or state it rarely goes to. By way of example, most films referenced here are usually classic films and not anything worth mentioning within the last couple…aside for an exception (AVATAR) or two (WATCHMEN, the UNDERWORLD series).

The first film to capture our state of imagination is also one of the earliest films ever made: French director Georges Melies took us on a journey to the moon in 1902's VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE. This would only be the start for both audiences and film makers to take the leap forward into expanding the concept of film to be used as a medium for artistic expression for years to come. Well, now giving it some second thought…I could maybe plea the case that an “attempt” to make more imaginary films are taking place now then ever before because of the advancement in cinema technology, namely the use of CGI (Computer Generated Images). Films like TERMINATOR 2, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE MATRIX are just a small example of the worlds we have been able to view. Allow me to discuss the more successful use of these techniques and how they have transported our imaginations to other places.
Director Zack Snyder
To start, director Zack Snyder is one of the most influential directors working comfortably in the new world of cinema technology. With a small but highly impressive list of films under his belt already including 300 (2006), WATCHMEN (2009) and SUCKER PUNCH (2011) and in post- production on the newly re-tooled Superman film: THE MAN OF STEEL (set for 2013) Snyder makes no secret of the fact that most of his film are shot in front of screens to allow him the freedom of creating the worlds around the actors. The familiarity/ unfamiliarity of these films rely on its audience to see and accept what is common to us: earth, buildings, vehicles, etc. yet still feel foreign to non-human abilities: super human strength, slow motion sequences, etc. Nonetheless, the director requests that a ‘suspension of reality’ be placed when viewing his work.
Enjoy this great tribute to Director Zack Snyder and his films

The same can be arguably said about director David Lynch who has made a career of suspending and even questioning the ‘dream state’ to the conscious effort. Lynch originally began his early career in the hopes of becoming an artist. After high school he attended the School of the Museum of Modern Art in Boston and planned a 3 year trip through Europe…only lasting 15 days when he decided it wasn’t for him and returned home. It is through that expressionistic level that he has been able to relay his dreams on film and not the canvas. Films like the cult classics ERASERHEAD (1977), THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), BLUE VELVET (1986), MULHOLLAND DR (2001) and the popular TWIN PEAKS television series, only solidifies the fact that a director can dedicate his life’s work to always blurring the lines of what is real and what we interpret as fantasy.
The second question: What films over the years do you feel have been most effective at transporting your conscious state into a dream-like state?
I would have to say that there have been a small selection of films that have effectively taken me to that dream-like state. There is a method to watching these films that have proven to be the best way to really appreciate the ambience created by the director, the cinematographer and anyone else involved in the creative process. Usually I like to hold-out until after midnight, the surroundings take on a different life of its own and things seem quieter and my senses feel more adapt to believing the world presented to me. Such films include David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME (1983), Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DR (2001), Francis Coppola's ONE FROM THE HEART (1982), Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003), Peter Weir’s THE MOSQUITO COAST (1986), Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER (1982), Richard Elfman’s THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1982), Brian DePalma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974), Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and Kubrick’s THE SHINING (1980) and Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS (1991). These are but a few films that I feel take me out of the world I live in and allows me to visit on the occasion when I need to. So much can be said about the grouping of these titles, yet can be said about each film and where it takes its audience.
The original trailer to THE MOSQUITO COAST with Harrison Ford!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: The "suspension" of reality as you refer to here Jer is well taken and hits home with our topic at hand this week. What the audience interprets as "fantasy" certainly qualifies as a worthy escape, and thus - audiences find themselves in that hypnotic-state.
Hitchcock films including the likes of "Vertigo", Fellini's "Roma" or "8 1/2", any film from Yasujiro Ozu ("Tokyo Story", "Early Summer" and "Late Spring") or even "Wild Strawberries" from Bergman could fall into this realm of outstanding dream-like and late-nite films that have a profound impact on us at a subconscious level. How about Godard's "Breathless" or Antonioni's "The Passenger"? Where do we place Francois Ozon's "Swimming Pool" from 2003 or Haneke's "Cache" (2005)? The transitions used in terms of score, lighting, editing and pacing virtually would begin at the end of one scene and simply dissolve into the next - just like a dream.

How about "Inception" (2010) as another film that recently placed us in a hypnotic state? Heck, during that film my occasional move to my popcorn bag was my own little "totem" in a sense.
Christopher Nolan's Oscar nominated film INCEPTION

A nice selection of films you have chosen here Jer including works from Kubrick, Lynch, Stone, and Coppola (S.) with the common theme of that late-night, hypnotic trance that these films seem to put you in - and there is real truth in the fact that they work best in the wee-hours. Thus, the topic for this week: The power of films to hypnotize us and to impact us at deep, subconscious levels.

So, we turn the attention of this blog over to our audience to see what films in particular hold them in that hypnotic-grip when watching. In essence - what films out there simply engross you when you experience them? Are we just mesmerized and transfixed visually, or are we simply being controlled / hypnotized by the hand of the director and the players? Perhaps the power lies within: Films have the power to change and to alter the way we think and feel about the world around us. Is it subliminal per se? Is it really fair, or is it in a bizarre sense....a violation? We leave this for you decide this week ~

Tune in next on WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 29th, 2012 for a very special look at the Academy Award results. You do not want to miss what we will have to say about who won and who deserved to win!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!