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

The Simple Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto Win 2014 Oscars

The 2014 Academy Award Nominations

The Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Facing Despair and Fear With Simple Humanity

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. McConaughey and Leto’s portrayals in Dallas Buyers Club have been described as this year’s two most transformative and most honored performances. McConaughey won Best Actor at the 2014 Oscars and Leto was named Best Supporting Actor for their staggering performances in Dallas Buyers Club.  McConaughey’s desperation was palpable in the film, a life force that wouldn’t be denied, and Leto’s performance was as seductive and fragile as a butterfly kiss.

Leading up to their Oscar wins, both actors won at SAG, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards, not to mention an almost clean sweep for Leto among the many critics groups who give out these honors. The awards have come for their work in the “little-film-that-could,” in a movie that took 20 years to bring to the screen, that no one wanted to make, that was shot on a tight 24-day schedule for under $5 million and used only available light.

The movie, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is a sober and unflinchingly brutal look at a man (actually, many men), coping with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, although it’s not set in New York or San Francisco as we’ve come to expect from most movies about this disease. As the title indicates, we’re placed instead in Texas, dwelling in shabby corners of Dallas. While it’s an unexpected place to find a story like this, the film is based on an uplifting true one.

Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider. After receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, Woodroof found himself shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of any government-approved effective medicines.Woodroof took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at that time. He found a way to begin importing drugs by means both legal and illegal from far-flung countries and began running a buyers club out of a cheap Dallas motel, with the unlikeliest crew of partners.

Bigoted in the way a rowdy Texan rowdy would have been in 1986, Ron nevertheless found his closest ally in Rayon, a willowy, honey-voiced trans woman played with warmth and grace by Jared Leto. Ron and Rayon have a bickering, eyes-rolling chemistry, which served them well as they carried out the important work that the medical institutions wouldn’t do. In its quiet, restrained manner, the movie becomes a truly heartwarming one. Dallas Buyers Club is a delicate, but largely unsentimental, movie about people doing good deeds. Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. In their courageous work confronting the nightmarish terrors presented by the early face of AIDS, Ron and Rayon did not go gently into that good night.

Read more about Dallas Buyers Club in The New York Times here.

Dallas Buyers Club (Official Trailer)

Dallas Buyers Club: Anatomy of a Transformation

The Envelope: McConaughey and Leto Discuss Making Dallas Buyers Club

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