The Lady In Number 6 Wins 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject

The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved Her Life

Alice Herz-Sommer, who died in London last Sunday at the age of 110, was widely described as the oldest known Holocaust survivor. She had been a distinguished pianist in Europe before the war. However, it was only after the Nazi occupation of her homeland, Czechoslovakia, in 1939 that she began a deep study of Chopin’s Études, some of the most technically demanding and emotionally impassioned works in the piano repertory.

For Mrs. Herz-Sommer, the Études offered a consuming distraction at a time of constant peril. But they ultimately gave her far more than that, far more, even, than spiritual sustenance. “They are very difficult,” Mrs. Herz-Sommer said. “I thought if I learned to play them, they would save my life.” And so they did.

In recent years, because of her great age; her indomitability; her continued, ardent involvement with music and her recollections of her youthful friendships with titans like Franz Kafka and Gustav Mahler; Mrs. Herz-Sommer became a beacon for writers, filmmakers and members of the public eager to learn her story. Mrs. Herz-Sommer was also profiled in documentary films, one of which, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, a documentary portrait directed by Malcolm Clarke, won the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.

The Lady in Number 6 has been described as one of the most inspirational stories ever told. In the film, Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, shares her views on how to live a long happy life. She discusses the vital importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life. This powerfully inspirational film tells her amazing story of survival and how she managed to use her time in a Nazi concentration camp to empower herself and others with music.

Read more about the life of Alice Herz-Sommer in the New York Times here.

The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved Her Life

Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

The Earth is evil,
We don’t need to grieve for it

There are 16 mini-scenes in Lars von Trier’s hauntingly beautiful eight-minute prelude to Melancholia, a movie about love, family and the apocalypse. The soundtrack for the overture to Melancholia is the exquisite prelude to Wagner’s 1859 opera, Tristan and Isolde, an opera Wagner described as “one of endless yearning, longing, the bliss and wretchedness of love; world, power, fame, honor, chivalry, loyalty and friendship all blown away like an insubstantial dream,” for which there is “one sole redemption-death, finality, a sleep without awakening.”

The movie, among Mr. von Trier’s greatest, stars Kirsten Dunst as Justine, a young advertising copywriter who, shortly after she gets married, endures two separate yet related catastrophes. A wedding party at an ocean-side golf resort owned by Justine’s brother-in-law ends with her new husband leaving, which in turn brings on the depression that overtakes her and seems to inaugurate the end of the world or her dream of the same. Many of the movie’s themes are introduced in the overture’s first minutes, a masterpiece in miniature that presents a deep reflection of literary, artistic and cinematic allusions.

Melancholia was named Best Picture at The 2011 European Film Awards in Berlin; the film also won awards for cinematography and production design. Previously, Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Melancholia. Last week, The National Society of Film Critics named Lars Von Trier’s end-of-the-world drama Melancholia Best Picture, and Best Actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for her performance in the film.

Read more about Prelude to Melancholia in The New York Times here.

Prelude to Melancholia: This Is How the End Begins

Melancholia: The Official Trailer

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Logorama Wins the 2010 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film

Logorama Wins the 2010 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film

Logorama is an award-winning, provocative and daring animated short film from the French H5 design collective, directed by François Alaux.  The film screened this year as an Official Selection at The Sundance Festival, and it has now won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Logorama Wins the Oscar: Thank You Comments by Nicolas Schmerkin, Producer

Logorama: A Hard-Boiled Heist Flick With An Earth-Shattering Twist!

Logorama is an award-winning, provocative and daring animated short film from the French H5 design collective.  The film screened earlier this year as an Official Selection at The Sundance Festival, and it has now won the 2010 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.  The film takes the viewer on an entertaining, violent, profane, action-packed caper set in a world comprised entirely of well-known corporate logos and iconic mascots.  How familiar are the stars of this film?  Well, an evil Ronald McDonald embarks upon a shooting spree on a street overflowing with 7-Elevens, U-Haul trucks, Wal-Marts and Pizza Huts.   The Michelin Men are bumbling, foul-mouthed cops on his trail, and Bob’s Big Boy picks his nose and flings it on an unsuspecting victim.

But make no mistake, Logorama is a cleverly executed critique of our times.  Our world is fueled with the signatures of commerce and consumption, where everyday symbols are imprinted in our collective memories, nagging away on the subconscious, hand in pocket and ready to draw money from our wallets.  It is within this context that H5 go far beyond a simple exercise in artistic defiance.  This is the beauty of their work: they transgress the graphic codes of our everyday experience.  They place them within a completely different context, which sufficiently sparks considerable food for thought.

Logorama: A Hard-Boiled Heist Flick With An Earth-Shattering Twist!

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We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

We Have Decided Not to Die is an award-winning, very unusual and deeply intriguing eight-minute short film by the Australian filmmaker Daniel Askill.  A Triptych.  Three Rituals. Three Figures. Three modern-day journeys of transcendence.  From the post-modern quirk school of filmmaking, this piece transforms the power of ritual actions into an emotional allegory that creates a world beyond evolution, creationism and intelligent design.  From a mental state where logic drops away, the film embarks upon a visually lyrical odyssey along a poetically surreal road to reversible destiny, where death is no longer inevitable.

We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

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Gay Pride: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Gay Pride: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

It’s the Dream Afraid of Waking,
That Never Takes a Chance

On What We Need: First Day of My Life

For all of us, there are genuine needs and wishes, deep longings for human warmth, empathic responsiveness, trust, mutual recognition and creative playfulness. These are many of the ingredients that we think of when we speak of love, or the loving feelings we have for the cherished other person.

Of such feelings about a beloved, one might quietly reflect that, “I’m so glad I didn’t die before I met you.”

Bright Eyes: First Day of My Life

The Times of Harvey Milk: A Documentary Portrait

Before there was this year’s Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slideshow:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slideshow)

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Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

Death to the Tinman premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it received an Honorable Mention for Best Short Film. In addition, Death to the Tinman won the Best Short Film Award at the 2007 Savannah Film Festival; the film has also played at the South by Southwest Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, among others. The film’s Director is Ray Tintori, a 26-year-old filmmaker from Brooklyn (NY), who also directs music videos for various music groups, such as MGMT. Tintori is a member of the Court 13 film collective, which is an acclaimed ensemble group of collaborative filmmakers and performers. The Court 13 collective is renowned for its multi-award winning short film Glory at Sea, a film that was set in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Glory at Sea’s mythic narrative surged from the depths of an epic senseless human tragedy to a doggedly determined communal passion to achieve a transmuting sense of resurrection and deliverance from Katrina’s catastrophic devastation. Glory at Sea valiantly confronted a monumental tragedy that vividly displayed the fact of our human mortality, as well as the inevitable loss of our dreams for the future. The film boldly turned away from the Post-Katrina survivors’ overwhelming of feelings of vulnerability, following the group of survivors as they instead came to courageously respond with a communal bond to a renewed and feverish commitment to love and hope.

Similarly, the mythical Death to the Tinman presents a visual narrative that swells from the unfathomable depths of human tragedy, to an achievement of the renewed capacity for a sense of love and hope. Describing Death to the Tinman, Tintori said, “I wasn’t terribly interested in trying to recreate Oz from the 1930s movies; I just sort of wanted to deal with this world of evangelical mysticism.” Death to the Tinman is an adaptation of the original story of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz series, in which Tintori’s version of the Tin Man is transformed from a human lumberjack to a metal man without a heart. Tintori transported the story’s basic foundation for the original Tin Man story to a surreal, rural 1940s South, replacing Oz magic with evangelical mysticism; pastors, congregations and The Rapture take the place of flying monkeys and witches melting upon contact with water.

Assuredly, rigorous formalism is existent, albeit uncommon among professional American filmmakers today; in addition, films that display an audacious, frenzied love of the medium are equally infrequent. To see all of these factors displayed side-by-side in the same work is profoundly rare, and Death to the Tinman just happens to be one of those epic film creations. Watching Ray Tintori’s Death to the Tinman for the first time, one can feel somewhat shocked by the experience of realizing that what you’re watching is a remarkable breakthrough short film. Tintori’s modern transformation of the original story about how the Tinman came to be the Tinman was created in a way that conveys an underlying emotional tone that progresses from the chaotic, to the quirky, to the profoundly poignant.

If you haven’t seen any of Ray Tintori’s works yet, I would highly recommend that you take twelve-minutes to watch Death to the Tinman. It’s truly a small investment to make in return for a rare, sizable emotional profit.

Death to the Tinman: How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man With No Heart

Photo-Gallery: Death to the Tinman/How the Tinman Became a Metal-Man Without a Heart

(Please Click on Above Image to View Photo-Gallery)

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Polaroid Love: Love Lost and Redeemed Through the Lens of a Polaroid Camera

Polaroid Love: Love Lost and Redeemed Through the Lens of a Polaroid Camera

Well I stumbled in the darkness
I’m lost and alone
Though I said I’d go before us
And show the way back home
There a light up ahead
I can’t hold onto her arm
Forgive me pretty baby
But I always take the long way home

Tom Waits

Polaroid Love (2008) is a half-hour long short film from Russia that already has won three awards at the 2008 28th Annual International Moscow Film School (VGIK) Film Festival. The short film won awards for the Best Actor, Best Editing and Best Production. Polaroid Love is a quiet, very introspective drama expressed in a quite unusual way; the film’s story can evoke from viewers a multitude of personal ideas and nostalgic thoughts.

Polaroid Love is a narrative about an unusual romance: It tells a bittersweet story about how a consuming passion for a Polaroid camera played the central role in being in love, losing that love and (I think) the love being unexpectedly regained. More generally, Polaroid Love might suggest that the world seems to be more beautiful when viewed while listening to your favorite music, or seen through the eyes of the one you love, or maybe even captured through the lens of a Polaroid camera.

Polaroid Love: Love Lost and Redeemed Through the Lens of a Polaroid Camera

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