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Why the best "Best Animated Short Subject" nominee won't win.

Last September, I was at the Ottawa Animation Festival, which is the main thing that happens in Canada’s capitol aside from government bureaucracy, and on the last day I was there, there was a long gap between screenings, so I went down to the Arts Center where some events I hadn’t noticed before were still going on, and I when I got there, I saw that there was a long, long line.


This was for Pearl, a 360° short film released as part of Google’s Spotlight Stories project. Now what this thing was, was not one of those 3D things where you need special glasses for, but something more important: A narrative Virtual Reality experience.


It blew me away. This is the future of cinema. It told a story (about a guy, his kid, and their car), and it did what VR was supposed to do, put you in the middle of the action. You had to put on the goggles and headphones to see it, and that’s fine, it’s the way we’re going to watch movies in the ’30s and ’40s. We have to start somewhere.


In the early 1930s, a two-reeler called La Cucaracha got an Oscar for Best Short. It wasn’t very good in and of itself, but it was the first film to use 3-strip Technicolor, and as such looked gorgeous. So it was, for the time, a technical marvel.

Pearl is that sort of film. Not something that will thrill viewers 30 years from now. But something like, Dire Straits’ music video Money for Nothing back in the ‘80s, something that was really cool and somewhat visionary at the time, but soon become dated. That thing looked kind of primitive when it came out. So did FDR’s television from 1939. State of the Art doesn’t seem “state of the art” for very long.

And thus it is for Pearl. The first successful experiment of something that would show the world the possibilities of the next phase in the evolution of the art form.


The people who make the nominations pretty much all saw the 360° version, and yes, that version deserved all the accolades it can get. But here’s the rub. The nominees have to be seen on the silver screen, which means the people who voted on the Oscar itself won’t see it. They will see a  “cinematic” cut down version that’s nowhere near as good, and these people will wonder how this nice, but by no means exceptional, little film earned a nomination in the Best Animated Short category.


So it will lose. Which is sad.


Canada Cool Comedy Tour Launches Comedic Invasion of NYC

Father and Guns

Canada has given us so much in comedy, whether it is from writers, TV shows, and movies. Now on September 18 - 25, 2015 at Cinema Village (22 E 12th St, New York, NY), the Canada Cool - Comedy Tour, presented by Telefilm, celebrates the comedic legacy of the northern territories. A curated selection of ten Canadian films that have not yet reached American theaters, plus two classics.

Films include:

  • Being Canadian (opening night)
    Robert Cohen’s (The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory) hilarious, insightful journey full of true patriot love from Canadian-turned-Hollywood comedy writing guru.

  • Two 4 One
    A bittersweet comedic drama that sees a transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament.
  • Father and Guns
    The highest grossing Québécois film in Canadian history about mobsters, sleazy lawyers, cops in hot pursuit, and dads with angry lads is a delightful firecracker of a comedy.
  • Henri Henri
    Orphaned and forgotten by all, shy and unassuming Henri has created the perfect job to suit his unique talent. He maintains the lamps and light fittings at the convent he has called home for his entire life. When he is forced to leave the protective walls of the institution, he is suddenly thrown into a foreign environment and the real world quickly overwhelms him.
  • Relative Happiness
    Plus–sized woman (Melissa Bergland, Best Actress Award, 2014 LA Comedy Festival) is a feisty B & B owner desperate for a date to her sister’s wedding.
  • Sunflower Hour
    Puppeteers audition for a children's TV program produced by a lapsed pornographer in this “cheerfully non-PC mockumentary“(Variety)
  • Bang Bang Baby
    A 1960s teen thinks her dreams of becoming a singer will come true when a famous musician (Justin Chatwin, Shameless) is stranded in town. But a chemical plant leak turns people into mutants and her dream turns into a nightmare.
  • Asphalt Watches
    Asphalt Watches is a true story. A feature-length animation based on a real-life hitchhiking trip taken by the two filmmakers, Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver, Asphalt Watches details the hilarious and harrowing journey of Bucktooth Cloud and Skeleton Hat as they travel eastward across Canada in the summer of 2000.

For more info and showtimes, visit:

Canada Cool - Comedy Tour

September 18 - 25, 2015

Cinema Village
22 E 12th St.
New York, NY 10003

Kenneth MacMillan's MANON returns to ABT

Kenneth MacMillan was, along with Frederick Ashton (whose The Dream is being performed by the American Ballet Theater later this season) and Antony Tudor, one of the greatest British choreographers of the twentieth century. His Manon, after Jules Massenet's opera of the same name and adapted from the classic, 18th-century French novel Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost that is the source for the opera, is a masterpiece. The current production, which returns after an interval of several years and dates from 1974, has new sets — these are unsatisfactory — and new costumes — these are somewhat better — by Peter Farmer. What really matters here, however, is MacMillan’s glorious, meticulous choreography — which soars, carried by Massenet’s beautiful melodies, orchestrated and arranged by Martin Yates — and the magnificent Ballet Theater dancers.

The sublimity of the evening performance on Wednesday, June 4th, was owed most of all to the astonishing dancing of the great Russian ballerina, Polina Semionova, in the title role, who surprised me in her ability to evince the sexuality inherent in the character. Her partner, the handsome Cory Stearns, as Des Grieux displayed an impressive virtuosity. As Lescaut, James Whiteside’s athleticism was riveting, although he lacked actorly conviction. Veronika Part as Lescaut’s mistress was dazzling and effectively worldly. The dynamism of the secondary cast and the corps as a whole — they have been superb this season — was enthralling.

The matinee performance on the same day was weaker overall but still engaging. Xiomara Reyes, who has excelled this season, danced beautifully and excitingly and captured much of the intense romanticism of Manon, especially in her exhilarating duets, but she fell short of the tragic force of Semionova. Her partner, Kevin Jackson, an Exchange Artist with The Australian Ballet, was technically accomplished but not as memorable as Stearns. Sascha Radetsky was a more plausible Lescaut than Whiteside and is a fine dancer but Whiteside’s execution was more remarkable. Isabella Boylston as Lescaut’s mistress danced elegantly but was less striking as an actress than was Part.


Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
65th Street and Broadway
New York, New York Phone:


The Second Time Around for First Time Fest

It's the Second Time Around for First Time Fest. A unique film festival celebrating first-time feature filmmakers, the five-day event is aimed at discovering and providing exposure for the next generation of great filmmakers from around the world. FTF is set for April 3 – 7, 2014, and it will be based at their new home, NeueHouse (110 East 25th St.).

It combines a competition section that showcases new and exciting debut films with a series of screenings and discussions with now-prominent filmmakers presenting their first films with the creators usually participating in a post screening Q&A. This fest offers an interplay of veterans mentoring the first-timers. 

Most screenings, including all the competition films, take place at the AMC Loews Village 7 (11th St. & Third Ave.)

Celebrities expected to attend the fest include:

Carol Alt, Christopher Abbott, Lake Bell, Brady Corbett, Frederick Elms, Hill Harper, Jennie Livingston, Albert Maysles, Tom McCarthy, Michael Moore, Rosie Perez, Kelly Reichardt, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Brooke Shields, Slash, James Toback, Julie Taymor

Jury Members: Noah Levy, Anne-Katrin Titze, Stephanie Zacharek;

Competition Filmmakers: Jayce Bartok, Mikael Berg, Rok Bicek, Josephine Decker,Mona Fastvold, Jakob Lass, Serene Meshel-Dillman, Marieke Niestadt, Tommy Oliver, Yael Reuveny:

Out-Of-Competition Directors: Anthony Leonard III, Drew Tobia & Jess Weixler

FTF Co-Founders: Johanna Bennett, Mandy Ward

FTF Director of Programming: David Schwartz

Great Festival Supporter: Tony Bennett

Below is a schedule of this year's First Time Fest: 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

6:00pm (5:30 Arrivals) –

NeueHouse.  Panel:  RBC’s Women in Entertainment featuring panelists Carol Alt, Rosie Perez, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Brooke Shields.  Also expected are Tony Bennett, Amy Carlson, Elizabeth Rohm, Jordana Spiro, Carmen Ejogo

7:30pm (7:00pm Arrivals) –

Loews Theater 3.  

Opening Night Film:

Paris Is Burning

Director Jennie Livingston.  

Also attending are Tony Bennett, Brooke Shields, Johnny Abrahams, Frida Torresblanco, Competition Filmmakers, Lady Bunny & other performers

10:00 pm – Mister H at the Mondrian Soho (9 Crosby Street, between Grand and Howard/Canal) Opening Night Party.

Attending will be all the Competition Filmmakers, Jennie Livingston and more…

Friday, April 4, 2014

1:00pm  – Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Farewell, Her Schwarz,

Directed by Yael Reuveny (Germany/Israel),

followed by Q&A and Jury Hot Seat.

2:00pm – NeueHouse. Panel: What’s Up Doc?

4:00pm – Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film:


Directed by Tommy Oliver (USA), followed by Q&A and Jury Hot

Seat.  Also attending will be cast member

and Troi Zee, Wayne Brady.

4:00pm (Red carpet arrival at 4:45pm)

– NeueHouse.  

First Exposure Film: Salesman,

Directed by Albert Maysles (1969).  

Albert Maysles will attend for a discussion with the


4:30pm – NeueHouse.  Panel:

Help Me Help You

5:00-7:00pm – Ninth Ward

(180 2nd Ave, between 11th & 12th Sts.).

Happy Hour Reception

7:00pm (Red carpet arrival at 9:10pm)

– Loews Theater 3.  First

Exposure Film: Titus, Directed by Julie

Taymor (1999). Julie Taymor and Composer

Elliot Goldenthal will attend for a

discussion with the audience.

7:30pm – Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: The Sleepwalker

(Norway/USA), Directed by Mona Fastvold,

followed by Q&A and Jury Hot Seat.  Also

attending are cast members Christopher

Abbott and Brady Corbet

10:00pm – No. 8 (357 W.

16th St., between 8th & 9th Aves.).

Festival Party

Saturday, April 5, 2014

11:00am  – NeueHouse. Panel:

Show Me The Money

12:30pm (Red carpet arrival 1:30pm)

[WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.  First

Exposure Film:  Roger and Me, Directed by

Michael Moore (1989).  Michael Moore will

attend for a discussion with the audience.

1:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Miss Julie, Directed by

Mikael Berg (Sweden), followed by Q&A and

Jury Hot Seat.  Also Attending is the star

Nathalie Soderqvist.

2:30pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– NeueHouse.  Panel:

We Need A Bigger Boat

3:30pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.

[WINDOWS-1252?]“Stand [WINDOWS-

1252?]Alone” Conversation:  Michael Moore.

4:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Love Steaks, Directed by

Jakob Lass (Germany), followed by Q&A and

Jury Hot Seat.  Attending the fest will be

Editor Gesa Jager.

4:30pm (Red carpet arrival 5:40pm)

[WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.  First

Exposure Film:  River of Grass, Directed

by Kelly Reichardt (1994). Kelly Reichardt

will attend for a discussion with the


5:00-7:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Kingston Hall

(149 2nd Ave., between 9th & 10th Sts.).

Happy Hour Reception

6:00pm (Red carpet arrival 6:45pm)

[WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.  First

Exposure Film, Eraserhead, Directed by

David Lynch (1977).  Cinematographer

Frederick Elmes will attend for a

discussion with the audience.

8:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Fall To Rise, Directed

by Jayce Bartok (USA), followed by Q&A and

Jury Hot Seat.  Also attending are cast

members Katherine Crockett, Desmond

Richardson, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Tamara


9:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.

Special Screening:  See You Next Tuesday,

Directed by Drew Tabia (USA) who will be

attending.  Q&A to be moderated by Jess


10:00pm – No. 8 (357 W.

16th St., between 8th & 9th Aves.).

Festival Party

11:30pm – Loews Theater 3.

Midnight Horror Screening: Nothing To

Fear, Directed by Anthony Leonardi III

(USA), who will be attending with first

time producer Slash.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

11:00am [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Class Enemy, Directed by

Rok Bicek (Slovenia), followed by Q&A and

Jury Hot Seat.

12:00pm (Red carpet arrival 12:45pm) – Loews Theater 3.  First

Exposure Film: Fingers, Directed by James

Toback (1978).  James Toback will attend

for a discussion with the audience.

12:00pm – NeueHouse.

Panel: The Critical Eye

2:30pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Getting To The

Nutcracker, Directed by Serene Meshel-

Dillman (USA), followed by a Q&A and Jury

Hot Seat.

3:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– Loews Theater 3.

First Exposure Film: Targets, Directed by

Peter Bogdanovich (1968).  Peter

Bogdanovich will not be able to attend,

but may appear via Skype for a discussion

with the audience.

3:00 pm – NeueHouse.  Panel:

The Grammy’s Present: From

Rock To Score.  Panelists include Guns N’ Roses guitarist (and first time producer of one of the competition films) Slash, and singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik.

3:00pm – NeueHouse. Panel: Sell Baby Sell

5:00-7:00pm – Kingston Hall (149 2nd Ave., between 9th & 10th Sts.). Happy Hour Reception

5:30pm – Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Bittersweet, Directed by Marieke Niestadt (USA/Netherlands),

followed by a Q&A and Jury Hot Seat.

9:00pm – Loews Theater 2.

Competition Film: Butter On The Latch,

Directed by Josephine Decker (USA),

followed by a Q&A and Jury Hot Seat.  Also attending are cast members Sarah Small, Isold Chae-Lawrence.

Monday, April 7, 2014

3:00pm  – NeueHouse.  Panel: Filmmaker Forum.  Attending will be all

the Competition Filmmakers.

7:00pm [WINDOWS-1252?]– 42West (516 W.

42nd St. [WINDOWS-1252?]– between 11th &

12th Aves).  Closing Night Awards and

Party.  Presentation of the John Huston

Award for Achievement in Cinema to Ms.

Julie Taymor.

Various Locations including

NeueHouse (110 East 25th Street)

Filmmaker Lounge

Filmmaker Forum & Panel Venue

Loews Village VII (Third Ave. at 11th

Street) Competition Films, First Exposure

Films, Tributes & Special Film



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