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Oscar Nominees for the 2015 Academy Awards

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The nominees for the 2015 Academy Awards have been announced. See below an updated list of the nominees:

Best Picture
“American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

Actor
Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”

Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”

Actress
Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”

Animated Feature
“Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
“The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
“Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Adapted Screenplay
“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle

Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
“Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
“Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy

Cinematography
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Emmanuel Lubezki
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Robert Yeoman
“Ida” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
“Mr. Turner” Dick Pope
“Unbroken” Roger Deakins

Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero
“Inherent Vice” Mark Bridges
“Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
“Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
“Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran

Director
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum

Documentary Feature
“CitizenFour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
“Finding Vivian Maier” John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
“Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
“The Salt of the Earth” Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
“Virunga” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
“Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
“Our Curse” Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
“The Reaper (La Parka)” Gabriel Serra Arguello
“White Earth” J. Christian Jensen

Film Editing
“American Sniper” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
“Boyhood” Sandra Adair
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Barney Pilling
“The Imitation Game” William Goldenberg
“Whiplash” Tom Cross

Foreign Language Film
“Ida” Poland
“Leviathan” Russia
“Tangerines” Estonia
“Timbuktu” Mauritania
“Wild Tales” Argentina

Makeup and Hairstyling
“Foxcatcher” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Original Score
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Alexandre Desplat
“The Imitation Game” Alexandre Desplat
“Interstellar” Hans Zimmer
“Mr. Turner” Gary Yershon
“The Theory of Everything” Jóhann Jóhannsson

Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
“Glory” from “Selma”
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
“Interstellar” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Animated Short Film
“The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
“Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
“A Single Life” Joris Oprins

Live Action Short Film
“Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
“The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Sound Editing
“American Sniper” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
“Interstellar” Richard King
“Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Sound Mixing
“American Sniper” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
“Interstellar” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
“Unbroken” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
“Whiplash” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
“Interstellar” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

THANK GOD FOR THE FLEAS: The Story within the Story

Eck 2During the Second World War, the Ten Boom family of Haarlem, Holland provided a hiding place for Jews and others hunted by the Nazis. On February 28, 1944 the family was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo. Two sisters, Corrie and Betsie, spent ten months in three different prisons. The last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. They were committed to an overcrowded barracks where living conditions were MV5BMTIyODA3NTYzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM2NTA0MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR9,0,214,317_AL_deplorable beyond description. As a tool for accentuating the horrific living conditions, amalgamated with the Christian faith that ultimately prevails, the screenwriters take an episode from Corrie Ten Boom’s book ,”The Hiding Place,” that provides a memorable microcosm of the larger drama.

Among other irritants within the barracks, Corrie and Betsie soon discover it’s infested with fleas and lice. This smaller matter reflects the greater theme of faith prevailing over tragedy. Betsie carried with her into the situation a stronger faith in God than did Corrie, as evidenced by her conveying to Corrie that even the fleas were somehow part of God’s plan, so they should be thankful for them. To underscore her position she read a verse from the small Bible Corrie had smuggled into the camp.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Corrie rejected the idea of being thankful for the fleas.

As time goes by, the sisters conduct worship services in the barracks and are inexplicably uninterrupted by the guards. It was Betsie who learned the cause behind this good fortune. The guards, knowing the infestation within the barracks, refused to enter. Food was delivered to the door and no further.

Betsie’s premise that God had provided the little creatures for a higher purpose was validated. Now they were both thankful for the fleas and lice. This mini-drama advances and captures the substance of the overarching theme by revealing Betsie’s faith that would give her peace, even as she faced death; and Corrie’s increased faith that would not only see her through the horrific experience, but drive her to become a voice for other sufferers of the holocaust, and a champion for the power of faith in all circumstances.

The movie, “The Hiding Place,” based on Corrie Ten Boom’s book by the same name, was directed by James F. Collier. Allan Sloane and Lawrence Holben are credited as the screenwriters. The film fairly adequately portrays the high drama of the book, but one doesn’t leave the theater with an unforgettable sequence emblazoned on the mind that forever reminds one of the story’s essence.

But, how do you do that? The horror is beyond words. Dialogue cannot match the drama. Even a close shot of the victim, with all the actors skill at red dressfacial expressions, falls short. Sometimes shooting a silent sequence speaks louder and more effectively than any tool at the director’s disposal.

Spielberg captures the nucleus of Schindler’s List in “the girl with the red dress” sequence. If one carries with them no other image from the movie, this will suffice as a reminder of the film’s theme.

How does one capture the horrific scenario at Ravensbruck where women were shipped in on cattle cars — many of them with their children? Observe this real life clip of a mother and daughter arriving at the concentration camp. Only silence will do. This forces the mind to fill in the screaming and crying and shouting. How can you write that?

I have a rule: When words won’t do, shoot it in silence. The power of silence.

Here’s a clip from our short entitled, “My America.” This, and other war scenes, speak for themselves without any narration, dialogue, or battle sounds.

Of course one doesn’t want to overcook the technique, but in high impact drama like “The Hiding Place” there are several opportunities calling for a scene without sound. (MOS, from Stroheim’s “Ve’ll shoot dis mit out sound.”). If you watch the film, pick them out for yourself. Find or create an instance where a scene could be transformed to a silent shot, thereby providing an unforgettable image that forever reminds us of Ravensbruck.

Regardless, the writers provide a memorable encapsulation of the whole film by including the symbol and object of relentless faith that ultimately prevails. Thank God for the fleas.

Backstory: How Much, How Far?

Eck 2The Christmas celebration is meaningless without the backstory. Trimming the tree, placing the wreathes, decorative lights, candles, brightly wrapped gifts lying beneath green branches are more than hollow traditions. The foundation upon which the festiveness of Christmas rests is its 2000-year-old backstory.

Traditionally, families of the Christian faith take time out from mirthful celebrating to starrecount how it all began. If I were making a movie with a Christmas motif, I’d probably, at some point, film a mother standing on a ladder placing an aluminum star on the pinnacle of a Christmas tree while her children look on. When she descends and claps the ornament’s year’s worth of dust off her hands, her cute-as-a-button 6-year-old daughter looks up and says, “Mommy, why do we put a star on the tree?”

What’s a Mom to say? Because it’s pretty? Because everyone else does? Because that’s what we always do? Because it guides Santa to the tree? No curious little inquisitor will be satisfied with that. Little ones have a keener ear than we might think when it comes to discerning truth. Except, of course, when it comes Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny − fables that we so painstakingly perpetuate.

And so, Mom calls Father away from his session with the nightly news and presents him with the star issue.  (I do not apologize for holding to this ancient view of family.) We cut to Mom and Father seated on the sofa with the Spiritual-Family-Timechildren gathered around. What’s Father to do? Merely going back to how Christmas traditions developed in Medieval Days will only generate more questions and confuse the issue. An over-simplification such as, “Because it reminds us of the first Christmas,” leaves a dissatisfying vacuum. Nothing short of visiting the beginning will answer the question at hand: “Mommy, why do we put a star on the tree?” So, Father blows the dust off the family Bible, turns to the Book of Matthew, and begins reading, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise…” He doesn’t read the entire Book of Matthew. Too tiring and unnecessary. He draws out only the first eleven verses of Matthew Two.

When Father comes to the part that tells of the Wise Men following the star to the manger where they present their gifts, the curiosity of the little inquirer is rewarded. “Oh, so the star giftstold them where to bring their presents.” She lifts her eyes to the star atop the tree, then scans the gifts strewn around beneath it. “And we put our presents where the star is shining, too,” she says while clapping with glee.

Christmas in this humble abode now assumes a texture that mere tinsel and lights could never provide. Backstory. It was necessitated by the occasion, and reached far enough back in time to provide a reasonable explanation of the matter at hand.

In this case, no fancy flashbacks were necessary. The action is in the reading, and telling; the intent listening; and the star, ablaze with reflected light from camera man operatorthe fireplace. The camera works closeups of each family member that catches their sundry expressions as the story progresses; a wide shot of the whole scene; a tilt-up shot of the tree which comes to rest on the sparkling star; a close shot of Father’s index finger tracing the words in the book as he reads, etc. Without leaving the present scene, we see a quiet and profound transformation effected by a powerful backstory as it unfolds through the telling and listening, while enhanced by a setting rich with ties to the past.

How far and how much? As used in the Christmas scene above, one must reach wise menback far enough to extract just enough information to answer the implied or expressed question at hand. Flashbacks that cut to a reenactment of the backstory are more often than not cheap and ineffective. A skilled writer and director find ways to utilize the elements of the “now” to effectively draw up water from the depths of the “then.”

FADE OUT/FADE IN: Beginning the Screenplay before it Begins

Eck 2We are what we are due to the shaping influence of a host of earlier events. Decisions we have made. Uninvited intrusions into our life. The influence of others. Successes, failures; ups and downs. We are also shaped by our genetic code, our psychological makeup, and physical features.

These molders of one’s character and station in life sometimes seem to work against us; other times for us. At the very least, our backstory makes us unique and interesting and dictate much of our future journey through life.

And so, I must buttress the characters in my screenplay with believable backstories. This is particularly true of backstoryour main characters. A character without a driving backstory is a figurative ship without a rudder, doomed to wander the sea without a port of call.

We should probably zero in on traumatic events like loss, betrayal, and wounds (physical, mental, and social). Elizabeth Lyon, in A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, outlines three outcomes of a wound that one should consider in character development:

1. The wound should leave the character with a need so intense that he or she will be driven to fulfill it.

2. The wound should leave the character with a weakness, a character flaw that seems out of control or beyond the full awareness of the character.

3. The wound may also gift the character with a heroic strength that increases his or her determination to fill the need and reach the plot goal.

Often the wound is self-inflicted. Sometimes the character won’t see the event as a wound at all, as when one commits a negativity formative act that seems perfectly logical at the time. A criminal commits a crime because he thinks button_their_storyit’s the right thing. But in so doing he self-inflicts a wound that sculpts his character from that day forward.

Now, I’m not saying one must go this far, but I have discovered that for me it is beneficial to begin writing the screenplay before the screenplay begins. In other words, before the FADE IN.

Prior to writing and bringing into preproduction, “Some Glad Morning,” AKA “When the Angels Sing,” I wrote a short play in which I introduced the main characters’ lives before the main story begins. The short play actually became an award-winning short film entitled, “The Last Pedestrian.”

Without boring you with the details, let me say that I created an event so momentous that it revealed the state of each character before, during, and after the short episode. We discover who they are, what they do, and how they behave when confronted with a given experience.

This was only about ten pages of manuscript, but those pages flowed smoothly into my feature-length screenplay, preventing me from getting bogged down with why characters behave as they do. Then, at opportune times, the story reaches back and draws a present conflict out of the past.

Well, you say, that’s awfully time-consuming. Yes, it is. But how much time do we waste tryinglogo Happy Writer to invent things as we go along that should have been firmly nailed down before we begin? Another advantage of beginning the screenplay before it begins is that, like any play, one must iron out the wrinkles. Another advantage of beginning the screenplay before it begins is that, like its big brother, one must iron out the wrinkles. So the inconsistencies one has to deal with are pretty well smoothed out in advance. Besides, it’s fun. You might even develop the stuff of a good short film. At the very least you might earn the “Happy Writer” merit badge.

Tribute to America Short and Film Competition

Please enjoy this short entitled My America produced by Guiding Star Cinema. Then consider voting for “The Last Pedestrian” in the Tallenge International Short Film competition by clicking on the link below. Select “The Last Pedestrian” and follow the 3-step instructions. Thanks!

voting

Voting for The Last Pedestrian

 

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