55: Oscar Rants And Raves
January 17, 2016 12:03 p.m.
Episode 55:Oscar Rants and Raves
An Oscar nominee explains sound mixing versus sound editing; a blogger describes 31 days of Oscar; and film critics evaluate this year's nominations.
Related Story: Podcast Episode 55: Oscar Rants And Raves
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. Podcast has been on a holiday break, but I’m back and the 88th Annual Academy Award nominations were just released. So, Oscar is on everyone’s mind. So, my show today is going to be all about the Oscars. I have to confess, I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with the Oscars. I used to use the list of Oscar winning films as a list of go off of as to what films I should try to go see. But as I saw more and more movies, I used to get frustrated with what films won and what films were left off of the nominations. When I was a senior in high school, I actually got to go to the academy awards. Granted, I was sitting in the last seat, in the last row and the highest grafter at the theater, but I did get to go and it was the year that Star Wars was nominated.
Live Feed: Star Wars, a 20th Century Fox Production, 20th Century Fox; Gary Kurtz, producer and the winner is Annie Hall, Charles H. Joffe.
Beth Accomando: That was an important moment for me. That was when I started to question the academy awards and began this love-hate relationship with them and feeling that the films I like were getting overlooked. It was also difficult for me to like Woody Allen for a number of years after that. So, today, it’s a three-part show, all about the Oscars. First, I’m going to talk to an Oscar nominee from one of the craft categories, then to a blogger who is doing 31 Days of Oscar for a blogathon and then I’ll repeat the Midday conversation I had with a fellow film critic.
Live Feed: For achievement in sound mixing, the nominees are Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Beth Accomando: That was the live feed of the Oscar nominations being read on Thursday morning. So, my first guest is Frank Montaño, a rerecording mixture who just got nominated for sound mixing for The Revenant. First of, I want to start the conversation by talking about one of the most memorable scenes in The Revenant, which is the bear attack.
Can you talk a little bit specifically about dealing with those challenges?
Frank Montaño: A lot of the credit goes to a gentleman who is phenomenally talented and he joined our mix team to help us out and actually did the sound design on the bear with Randy Thom. And he had worked on that scene and believe it or not, I believe it was April. Visually it was in emphasis stage, wasn’t very far along. So, those tracks came in and we made very little changes to them. But all hunter wanted to make sure that it wasn’t big for the sake of being really big and it wasn’t to the point where it was unreal. So, we really kind of manipulated the track to a small degree to make sure that the footsteps were a little more muddy then a little more thuddy kind of thing, too much processing at the vocals of the bear weren’t so loud that we Leo in the scene.
What we will call the gore of the bear biting and clawing Leo during that scene wasn’t so over the top that you stop believing, and that believe it or not what sets that scene apart was that nature cared less about what was happening in the quiet moments of the scene because there are three pages to the attack I think. Then in between them you’re still, you’re hearing bug, you’re hearing flies, you’re hearing birds off stages and three winds you’re hearing, the cubs going on and that would really face them in reality. So, when we’re able to keep the whole film in our pocket, it really had an impact that you believed it was happening and that is the magic of sound.
Beth Accomando: Well, actually I was going to ask you about the silences, which aren’t complete silence, but the quiet moments because I think that was part of what made that scene effective and kind of grueling to go through as you have this intense moment and then this little bit of quiet. And I think your ears are really pricked up at that point because you’re listening like where did it go, how far away is he or she.
Frank Montaño: That’s when we talk about dynamic range, that’s exactly, that’s a perfect example of that phrase is how lot is your loud and how low is your low. We have a moment of hyper reality and then shortly thereafter that like you say it wouldn’t go silent, it just stayed real. It just stayed as it was before and the storytelling part is nature doesn’t care that there is this totality happening. The birds are still going to be the birds and the wind and trees are just going to be the wind and trees.
Beth Accomando: The Oscar nominations just came out and I know that a lot of times I get people asking me what’s the difference between the sound mixing and the sound editing awards and this particularly comes up whenever I’m in an Oscar pool and people are trying to mark their ballots and they’re like I don’t understand what the difference is. So, can you enlighten us on what that is?
Frank Montaño: Yeah, it confused me as well, no I’m just kidding, from the outside looking they’re very close as far as understanding what each discipline brings to the table, but they are married. The sound editing is the editing of sounds to match the picture. So, there’s a traditional protocol to that discipline and there’s a spotting session. So, the filmmakers will sit with sound editorial and look at the movie, sometimes those sounds are described in the script. There was a cold wind blowing through the scene and made everyone feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes, that sound request comes from the director and/or the picture editor or it is brought to the table by the sound editorial team. So, it’s a spotting session and take sound off, some of it self-explanatory and some of the work is what we’ll say that’s not off the rack that we actually send editorial way they’ll have to record in a live recording and/or manipulate audio and sound design. So, there are no dinosaurs available to record right, so that’s going to have to be audio that’s been manipulated to have a dinosaur vocal if you will, for example.
They play this material for the filmmaker and get a lot of feedback during this process so that the filmmaker will say can it be more weight to it, can there be a little more sharpness to it. It should have a narrative maybe if it’s a key character in the film let it be like a robot of some sort then that is going to be a visual effect that’s coming in and with that visual effect to make it come to life there needs to be specific sound edited to actually give that thing, that being, that visual effect a character. So, that is kind of overall quick synopsis of what sound editorial is. Now, there is also within that paradigm, there is going to be then there is going to be a folly component. A folly is going to be very specific and unique to every film process of what I like to call action and reaction. So, what folly is going to do is going to cover every footstep and every movement by our principal characters to cover what’s not covered in the production recording, because we have to remember the production recording primarily what we’re going to get from the production recording onset is going to be the principal actors’ dialog only and then there was going to be live recordings for very specific films; fresh recordings of maybe jets and/or cars and/or atmospheres. So, all that has to be gathered over anywhere from months to a year of building a library of sounds that are specific for that particular film. So, once all that material has been recorded and edited, it’s brought to a mixing stage, so now we’re getting into the mixing process right. So, now we are starting to blend production and postproduction recordings together.
So, I’m going to take all these sounds that have been provided to me, put them on a large console, sit inside a theater of mixing stage and watch picture on a large screen, so we’re going to take all these sounds and start to again make then cohesive, so they come from all these different sources through sound editing and it come to the stage and now they’re starting to be mixed and blended so that we put it in a 5.1 environment or a 7.1 environment or an atmos environment or an Imax environment or various sound format and picture format. So, I’m going to take all these sounds and start to build the atmosphere, the location changes, how the depth of field during the mix is, does that sound far away, does that sound close up and start methodically going through the movie. As we start to mix, start to make the audience feel like you’re in the scene because remember all we got from production is principal dialog from our actor.
So, when we get our original composition from the composer that will also – that’s also going to be split out in groups so that we have orchestra provided separate from maybe string, separate from horn, separate from percussion so that when we start to shape the movie, shape each reel that everything can be manipulated. After the prep was done, which we call premixing and the prep has been complete and we’re ready to sit with our filmmakers and start to assemble the movie, we go reel by reel so to be, for instance The Revenant was eight reels; it was 2 hours and 37 minutes and we are going to take a reel at a time. We try to budget each reel for about two days on average. So, we start to blend this mix and really shape the way that it has some kind of emotional impact on the audience and conveying story. So, sound is all about story.
So, sound edit is going to be the art of collecting and creating sounds and sound mix is taking the dialog, the music and the sound effects and blending them into whatever focus and however the filmmaker would like to feel, for those scenes to those reels all the way through the process.
As we’re making our way through the film reel by reel, fixing reel by reel eventually at the end that time we’re going to string the movie as a whole piece from start to finish and look at it one more time and what we want to look at it, why we want to look at that point is to really get a sense of what’s working thematically. What is our dynamic range, are we too loud or too low. Did we lose focus somewhere, do we not follow the story, we’re not really conveying the story sound wise, so we have to fix those things as there are too much music during this mix. Are we overshadowing the actors’ performance, are we not clear on some of the – are we not clear enough on dialogue. So, sound edit is gathering, creating and organizing sounds. Sound mixing is the blending and the storytelling component of the soundtrack.
Beth Accomando: So, sometimes you’ll see the same films nominated in both categories and some times, the nominations are different. So, I’m curious are there types of films or particular skills that tend to get noticed more in one of those categories or another like is in an highly effects-driven film more likely to get the sound editing nomination than the mixing one and/or like quite dramas tend to be overlooked in both categories in favor of something flashier?
Frank Montaño: Right, good question. There is no real predictability exactly. If you look at it as we just discussed the difference between the two disciplines is if it’s a musical-based movie like a traditional musical that mean that musical may not get recognized for sound editorial because it’s all really music based where let’s say a heavy effect show, because it’s unique and it’s so vital to the story, you might see the sound editing award and not sound mixing. The nominations were actually brought out by each branch so that the sound branch votes for their own. So, the sound branch is made up of rerecording mixtures and sound editors. So, there’s always a little bit of tricky thing. Some of the dialog pictures are just brilliantly done but in a subtle way and sometimes they do get recognized for that. And sometimes, some of the bigger bolder pictures sound wise are not unique enough for that given year to be recognized. So, it’s always a little bit of a crap suit if you will, but normally get them right.
Beth Accomando: So, how did you get into doing sound work because it’s not, no offense or anything, but it’s not the more glamorous of the positions on a film yet it’s entirely vital to it. So, I’m just curious how did you end up getting into this field?
Frank Montaño: Well, it’s kind of like following the – you’re behind the elephants with the dustpan in the circus actually. I have a T-shirt that reads, I’m the sound guy. Nobody knows who I am until I’m not doing my job, right. No, it actually is very fulfilling. I always described it as it’s a 50-50 proposition when you sit down and watch a film. So, the stimuli is 50 percent pictorial – picture driven and the other 50 percent is the sonic environment. But I like to argue actually that is 51 percent to sound since we can close your eyes and take you to Congo or take you to the ocean or take you to a stadium or take you to wherever in the world even a make-believe place.
I personally, my journey – I started working on sound equipment at 18 years old and then went from building equipment to maintaining mixing consoles to installing them to actually working in a studio environment and just kind of stumbled and bumbled my way into actually sound mixing. Now, there is specific schools that provided, film schools inside some of the larger universities, provide that part of the film classes. Even if you don’t go into that field, if you want to direct and produce and write, it’s always great to have sound recognized. So, exposure at an early age during the process really helps us as we move forward to working with some of these younger or newer filmmakers; that they appreciate sound, that they understand how vital it is and for the most part that most filmmakers do really count on it being part of their storytelling. So, it’s really getting a lot of respect inside the community.
Beth Accomando: You’re still a little underappreciated though, I think.
Frank Montaño: Right, I’d rather be underappreciated and overpaid.
Beth Accomando: Well, it’s a kind of thing too where part of what you’re you are striving for is to not be noticed because if people are sitting in the theater and going like I’m noticing the sound work in this film, it’s probably not the effect you want.
Frank Montaño: That is the art of the mixing is to not ever get in the way. I think I have been on my mind for us not to mess it up. So, we never really want to be noticed for the wrong reasons. We want to be noticed for those key cliché phrases dynamic or they were transparent. We never want the audience to watch a movie. We always wanted the audience to be in the movie and they have lots to do with the sonic quality of the film and the environments that we’re trying in the storytelling. So, we always want to make sure that you’re not leaning over asking what did they say, want to make sure that the demographic is – the film is built for demographics, not too loud, not too abrasive for one audience, but it’s kind of muscle for another audience and it’s gentle for yet another audience. So, I look back over my career and the films that I have worked on and always there’s something in there that you wish you could have done different.
Beth Accomando: In looking back on some of your films, what are a couple of the films that you’re most proud of?
Frank Montaño: Oh Jeez, they’re like your children. You never want to pick one out. They’re always I think for me, it’s really on the filmmakers that were working with is really important and they’re all different which is great. But some of the things that stick out, I did a film, Steven Seagal’s film called Under Siege. It was my first nomination, so that’s always special. We did A Beautiful Mind in New York at the end of September 2001. So, that was very interesting time to be in New York obviously with the devastation in New York at the time with the attack on the towers, being in the city, from Los Angeles and being in the city there and working on A Beautiful Mind, which ended up with a best picture award on Oscar that year. So, that was always a standout. But they all have a little special something to them and The Revenant was actually, it’s a once in a lifetime film that we all dream about – sound people dream about working on and we were able to do that this year. So, that one is a benchmark in filmmaking in my opinion. So, it’ll be seen by generations to come.
Beth Accomando: And what sound nomination did you receive for that?
Frank Montaño: Sound mixing for The Revenant this year. Last year was, my mixing partner John Taylor and I received a double nomination last year, which was for Unbroken and Birdman, which was very interesting because they are polar opposite in their audio track that they are so different; one is the mortal polished and again another cliché of Hollywood sound versus the Birdman being extremely immersive and real kind of raw sound. So, very proud to be able to do in the same given year two movies that are so sonically different.
Beth Accomando: On The Revenant, what would you say was the biggest challenge?
Frank Montaño: The biggest challenge for us as a crew was to keep it very real, the sounding so they never overpower the picture when it wasn’t needed to, it will always felt like again that key phrases that are you’re with the character not watching the character. It could be very dynamic, it could at any moment it was this role at times, it was very, very, very intermittent times and around the gamut. So, it was just to keep it real that you always felt just that you were there with whoever was on screen.
Beth Accomando: For you personally, looking at films being made today, can you point any examples of films where you really think they were driving kind of the creativity in sound work in ways that you thought were interesting or hopeful for the future?
Frank Montaño: Absolutely, that’s a really unique perspective to have is when you sit down and you do it for a living and you’re watching a film and you actually forget about what you do is really impressive. Something very subtle this year like Bridge of Spies. It just had a really great sound to it. That is really a – we’re talking about that’s really a dialog driven movie. I don’t believe it got editorial nomination, but it got a mixing nomination and rightfully so it is a really interesting sounding movie that’s just really lent itself to that film. It just really connected. There’s just so many talented people coming through the ranks that it is very exciting and it takes people like myself and Randy Thom and Gary Rydstrom and Paul Massey who did The Martian and people like that to hand down what we’ve learned to make sure that the art continues to go forward and progress and earn the respect that it deserves. And the only way to do that is to mentor and share stories and share experiences with some of these super talented people coming through the rank.
Beth Accomando: And what do you have coming up in the future?
Frank Montaño: We are actually working, believe it or not we’re working on The Huntsman, which is a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman and we’re based here at Universal Studios which has been my home for 15 years. And then shortly thereafter we’re going to go on to the next installment of Star Trek. So, it’s really kind of cool, we go from mid-evil fantasy to futuristic fantasy.
Beth Accomando: Now from a sound perspective, what do you think is harder or more challenging? Is it this fantasy world where people don’t really maybe have a sense of like I don’t know what a starship would sound like when it’s just kind of sitting, humming in the port or whatever or is it the real world kind of films that settler, dramas like which of those do you find kind of more difficult or challenging to do just in an general sense?
Frank Montaño: I’ll give you the politically correct answer, which is there both difficult and here’s the reasons why. The more subtle the track is there is less to hide behind. So, all your blemishes show, when you’re doing an action picture and some of those themes are heavily driven by music and/or effects, is a little more broad-based feel to them so that not every details being analyzed, only 90 percent of them are. Most people think the quieter the reel is simpler versus the overly aggressive soundtracks. But actually they’re both about 50-50, just one a little more fatiguing to the year than the other.
Beth Accomando: Do you remember when you were young and going to movie, do you ever remember the first film where you kind of noticed sound work, was there a point where you said like there’s somebody there doing that and that’s kind of interesting?
Frank Montaño: Yeah, I can tell you exactly when that happened. For me, it was the film called Tora! Tora! Tora! at the Chinese and at that time was a grown in Chinese in Hollywood. The Pearl Harbor attack etcetera really affected me. I mean I really felt like you were there, so sonically it kind of had an effect on me. I couldn’t articulate what that was at that point in time, I was very young. And then the second time it happened to me was on a pike of a snap, a night attack on the river with an RPG flying through the theater and flying over my head. Actually, I had a physical reaction of ducking. Visually, it would come at me and sonically it went by me and there were that physical reaction. But it didn’t stimulate anything or I was like I want to do that, but those things are embedded in my memory at least till dementia sets in. And then when I got started to delve in sound around 18 years old and then by the grace of the audio gods kind of led me to the sound and the things and then I have realized from a layman’s perspective even as an engineer that that was going to be a very – that’s a very interesting craft and a very impactful important component to, let it be music and/or film and then at a very early age I was exposed to it by 20 and started mixing at 21. So, 30 years later and 150 pictures later I’m having a conversation with you.
Beth Accomando: Sound is so important.
Frank Montaño: We live by the motto of we never really finished, we just run out of time.
Beth Accomando: Yeah. Well, I want to thank you very much for taking some time at the last minute like this and best of luck to you at the awards.
Frank Montaño: Well, thank you so much for having me and it’s extremely important to have people like you that understand the importance of it and get the message out there. It can only help.
Beth Accomando: All right. Well, thanks a lot.
Frank Montaño: Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Beth Accomando: You too, bye.
Male Speaker: Bye, bye.
Beth Accomando: Now, I’m going to talk to somebody who can give you a little sense of Oscar’s past. So, my second guest is Once Upon a Screen blogger, Aurora Baguio, known to our Twitter followers as citizen screen. Four years ago, she came up with something she calls 31 days of Oscar Blogathon.
Beth Accomando: So, welcome Aurora, how are you doing?
Aurora: I’m good Beth, thanks for having me on.
Beth Accomando: Sure, it’s Oscar fever time, people are dreaming about the little gold statue right now. So, tell me how did you come up with this idea for this 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon. What inspired you to do that?
Aurora: Well, first I want to mention it wasn’t my idea alone, it’s a team effort. I co-host the event with Kellee Pratt from Outspoken and Freckled, and Paula Guthat from Paula’s Cinema Club. So, together we came up with the idea inspired by TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar programing. They’re doing the 31 days as they’ve done for the last 21 years starting on February 1st where the future Oscar nominated films and winners of course throughout all of February.
Beth Accomando: So, what does this blogathon entail? Does somebody have to be a blogger to partake in it? Can you just hop in at any time? What exactly does happen?
Aurora: Yeah, most of the people that participate our bloggers. They have their own blogs. So, we do once in a while have someone that we may have met through on social media that is a classic film lover, actually we accept our current nominations as well and they may reach out to one of us and say listen I’d love to write something and we’ll post it on our blog. What we’re doing is throughout the month of February for the four weekends, February 6th, February 13th, and February 20th and February 27th, we’ve designated different topic for each of the weekends. We have The Actors for the first week; Oscars Snub, which is always very popular on the second week; The Crafts, which includes of course costumes and mythography writing etcetera on the third week and then we do The Motion Pictures and The Director for the fourth week. But pretty much anyone who loves film or is passionate about one of the topics, an actor or film can participate.
Beth Accomando: And usually how many bloggers do you get partaking in this?
Aurora: It’s a fairly popular blogathon especially since it’s throughout the month. I think last year we got between 75 and 80 entries, so yeah it was great, it was great participation. I think it’s been the same for the previous three years actually.
Beth Accomando: And do you guys also have a Twitter component to this or you’re watching the films on TCM and also doing tweet along with that?
Aurora: We do tweet along with TCM Party, that we do constantly not each of us every day, but we will be watching the films throughout the month as well and some of the entries matches up to the TCM schedule and of course we link back to TCM and mention their festival throughout each of our posts because they were the inspiration for this.
Beth Accomando: You mentioned one of the themes is going to be snubs, which is a great one and the Oscar nominations for this year just came out and I know that there are going to be a few people out there stinging from being overlooked, since the Oscar nominations this year seemed to be very wide and male for the most part in terms of the films, I know that people were upset that actors like Idris Elba were overlooked for Beasts of No Nation and Michael B. Jordan from Creed. What are some of the snubs that really stick out in your mind from like some of the golden years of the Oscars?
Aurora: Oh my god, where to start. I mean the one that always top of my list is Judy Garland for A Star Is Born. No disrespect to Grace Kelly, but that was Judy… it was given to the wrong person. There are lots of acting snub that we can talk about. I think that for instance Edward G. Robinson and he is on my mind because TCM just played Double Indemnity last night. I think he deserved the supporting actor for that over Barry Fitzgerald who won. There are many, many classic movies that weren’t even nominated – City Lights, which is one of the great films of all time. Frankenstein was never nominated.
Beth Accomando: A lot of those universal horror films were severely overlooked.
Aurora: Oh yeah, as a matter of fact, I think what I’m going to work on for this year’s blogathon in the snubs category is Oscar’s lack of relationship with Her because it’s just – I don’t even get it. It’s just impossible to understand. The Night of the Hunter was never nominated, one of the greatest films ever made in my opinion.
Beth Accomando: I remember how excited I was when The Silence of the Lambs swept that year and I was going, a horror film has swept the Oscars, this is their first.
Aurora: That was the first one that won an Academy Awards for best picture, the first horror. I love that movie and I think I mean it was just rightfully chosen that the performances are, we have the conversation about what’s classic, what’s not classic; well that’s a perfect example to me that is a modern film that is a classic for me, I mean it’s just perfection those performances. But I don’t know that I was surprised to see. I was extremely happy and I think The Exorcist was the first one nominated for best picture.
Beth Accomando: That’s amazing when you think about it.
Aurora: Yeah exactly. When you think about the horror films through the ages since the beginning of film and I don’t understand it.
Beth Accomando: Well, in this year, it seems like Oscar is slowly warming up to genre films and this year I was really surprised to see that Mad Max: Fury Road got a best picture and best director nomination. So, maybe they’re warming up to those genre films.
Aurora: It could be I mean which is great. I think the populist deserves recognition as well. Those genre films are usually very popular so good for them. They are sort of becoming human in that sense.
Accomando: When I was a kid, I grew up with those Robert Osborne Academy Award annuals and I would pour over these books and collections of the Oscar lists and use it as my checklist of what films to go see and my goal was to see every single film that was up for best picture. And then as I saw more and more films, as I got older I started to get a little disillusioned with the Oscars. How did you kind of like first start watching the Oscars and was it something that you always look forward to and has that feeling about them changed over the years?
Aurora: Well, I started watching, I fell in love with movies when I started watching them. I got to this country when I was 5 years old and they used to play on television all the time I grew up in the New York City area. We had the 4:30 movie, we had TBS play and so I fell in love with those classic movies. I started buying the Hollywood magazines, Rona Barrett magazines back then and of course they had the author's special, we had this really old rinky dink little theatre. I would try certainly to go see all the movies that were nominated every year. It was an excitement. There was a glitz and glamour about it still back then. I used to even play Oscars with my cousins that was one of our games. So, what we would do is in each category, we’d simply choose whatever movies we like and my best picture could have been On The Town, Penny Serenade, Meet Me in St. Louis. And then I just, the winner was the one that I like the most. My cousins would pick their favorite songs and stuff. So, I mean this has been an excitement all of my life, had been excited about it. Has it changed? Yeah, it’s changed. It doesn’t represent that sort of glitz and glamour anymore. The actors or the stars are not removed from us like they used to seem to be. These were people that I was in awe of that doesn’t exist anymore. But I do still like to go see the movies, I’d like to give my opinions, I usually do print a ballet and end up watching the Oscars with friends and see if I can guess who they are going to pick. So, there is a certain excitement to them for me so, but it’s not the same in anyway as it used to be.
Beth Accomando: So, one of the weeks, you’re dedicating to the crafts. Do you think this is to help people understand with some of these craft categories are all about?
Aurora: One of my favorite things about blogathon, it’s community building, you meet people even if it’s online that love these films as much as you do etcetera, but you always learning something. Cinematographers is something, I love cinematography and films but I don’t necessarily know a lot about the same as cinematographers and we always get comments at the end of the event saying that people do learn about these films. We increase curiosity in certain players or films because of these topics and the passion that people put in their writing. So, it’s really a side benefit of doing this. We get people in their 20s, people in their 60s, 70s that have been writing about films forever. So, it expands everybody’s knowledge about these topics and we started doing the topic with the craft last year and we had such a great turnout, of course we repeated it. It’s just so much fun. The topics that are chosen already, we have somebody is going to write about the screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, somebody is writing about the cinematography in Black Narcissus. Somebody is writing about on Torment. So, it expands the ages, it expand all the topics, it’s really a lot of fun.
Beth Accomando: You mentioned the TCM Party, can you explain for people what that is?
Aurora: Sure, it’s just so happen that one of my co-hosts for the blogathon is the founder, one of the founders of TCM Party and basically it’s a hashtag, #TCMParty and we watch movies on TCM and tweet along with them. Started four or five years ago and that she’s going to probably kill me for not remembering exactly but, and it’s grown now, it’s going 24 hours a day people were on there, whenever people were watching people in this group are watching TCM movies, they’re tweeting along to it and it’s really a lot of fun. You get people from again, you get bloggers just regular fans that are on Twitter and you get some trivia, a lot of snarky remarks but they are fun. It’s really a lot of fun and like I said you can go on, you can search TCM Party hashtag anytime during the day and somebody is down there commenting on these films.
Beth Accomando: Well, it’s an interesting community that creates because you’ve got people who were all around the country and sometimes even out of the country watching films at the same time as if you were all in this big living room together.
Aurora: Yeah, it really made a difference for a lot of people, I mean not everyone has family members or friends that like these old movies; most of the people I know think I’m not there would go to a festival to watch movies for entire day much less a weekend, but you go on there and it’s almost like by now we’re old friends, a lot of us have met at the TCM festival some of us keep in touch and see each other outside and during regular intervals watching movies locally. So, it really made a difference, it built this community. We were all shocked when we met the first time at the festival that these are actual real friendships that have formed, just from tweeting a long to these movies. So, it’s really quite remarkable.
Beth Accomando: I was lucky enough to get to go to the TCM film festival and meet some of you guys there and it seems like it’s people who meet and you feel like you’ve known each other for a long time because you have all these films in common and all these kind of film experiences in common.
Aurora: Absolutely, absolutely and like I said they’re very valuable of friendships because for whether it’s for those three or four days or whether it last throughout the years by way of Twitter or like I said sometimes you go see movies with these people now; these are in many cases the only relationships you have where you can actually go have a drink or go have something to eat and talk about old movies for four to five hours and you can’t do that with everybody because they look at you like you’re crazy.
Beth Accomando: What part do you think TCM has played in helping foster this community?
Aurora: Well, huge. They are the reason why we started doing this in the first place. If we didn’t have the link of the movie that airs on TCM that we’re all able to watch at the same time, this never would have happened. There are many, many other groups that have formed that have regular tweet along. But in a lot of cases they either all watch something on YouTube together or something like that. This is already scheduled for us; this is simply turning on your TV and watching what’s airing on TCM and it just become in the case of many, many people part of the daily routine. I have TCM on most of the time whether I’m actively watching or simply doing things around the house and I have it for background noise, but I know that it’s a movie that I know and I hear a phrase that I am I’m familiar with or it’s a theme that I loved. I tend to grab my phone and I’ll tweet something to TCM Party. Really it’s an odd thing when you come to think about it.
Beth Accomando: So, you’re looking forward to the films coming up in February?
Aurora: I am. Actually TCM is doing quite unique, it should be very interesting. They're going to be airing movies in a scheduled based loosely on the Six Degrees of Separation or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon whatever I know you get it, so that each movie will have some kind of connection to the previous one or to the one that follows. It’ll be interesting, I looked at the schedule very briefly the other date, a lot of the movies obviously are familiar or these are not new releases, but I like that theme, last year I believe that they did a strictly sequential from the first, you know they did Wings, the first Academy Award winner through, I believe like The Lord of the Rings they even did. But I think I really liked this topic or the way they’re presenting it this year, it should be interesting.
Beth Accomando: All right, I want to thank you very much for speaking with me. Is there a place where people can go to get more information on that 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon or where these blogs are collected or any other information they can get?
Aurora: Sure, my blog is Once Upon a Screen, the URL is aurorasginjoint.com. You can also go to either Outspoken and Freckled or Paula’s Cinema Club. All three of us will be posting the entries as they come in and hopefully we’ll have a lot of really fun stuff to celebrate during the month of February, so it’ll be fun, really looking forward to it.
Beth Accomando: All right, sounds great. Thank you very much for your time.
Aurora: All right, thank you for inviting me on, it was fun.
Beth Accomando: And finally, here’s the Midday segment that fellow film critic and podcaster Yazdi Pithavala and I did with Maureen Cavannaugh, the day the Oscar nominations were announced.
Maureen Cavannaugh: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I’m Maureen Cavannaugh. It helped to get mold by a bear and fight dystopian dictators in Hollywood this year. The movies, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road were two of the biggest picks at the 88th Annual Academy Award nominations there were announced this morning. Joining me to discuss the nominations as well as what the economy got right and what they may have overlooked, our KPBS film critic, Beth Accomando, Beth welcome.
Beth Accomando: Thank you.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And Moviewallas Podcaster Yazdi Pithavala. Welcome Yazdi.
Yazdi Pithavala: Thank you.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Now, Beth you are up early this morning….
Beth Accomando: Sure was….
Maureen Cavannaugh: ….to hear the nominees announced, can you give us a quick rundown on the numbers.
Beth Accomando: Sure, we have at the top of the list is The Revenant which got 12 followed closely by Mad Max with 10 and then you have a pair of films Spotlight and Carol with six a piece and then Star Wars, Bridge of Spices and The Big Short. All came in with five.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Aha, and any of the best pictures just one or maybe Room, Brooklyn something like that?
Beth Accomando: There are a few that got just a couple of nominations. There are a few solitary souls out there especially I think in the acting categories. It was an odd collection of nominations in a certain way because they all felt kind of safe and very predictable, I mean I actually if you read some of the people making the predictions most of them were pretty spot-on, so there weren’t huge surprises in that list.
Maureen Cavannaugh: So, round it out for us if you would, we heard that you just gave us a list of all the best pictures. The best actor and best actress, just so people know what we’re talking about.
Beth Accomando: Sure yes. We’ve got for best actor Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Matt Damon in The Martian and Matt Damon just won the comedy acting award from Golden Globes.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Crazy right!
Beth Accomando: Yeah, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. He came away with the best drama, best actor award from the Golden Globes, Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. And then for best actress we have Cate Blanchett in Carol, Brie Larsen in Room, Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn. So, some of those are fairly lonely categories for some of those films.
Maureen Cavannaugh: When the nominations were announced, which nominations seemed to generate the biggest reaction, Beth?
Beth Accomando: The biggest reaction came in the best supporting actor category, so let’s hear them read the nominees and see what gets the applause.
Live Feed: For performance by an actor in a supporting role, the nominees are; Christian Bale in The Big Short, Tom Hardy in The Revenant, Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight, Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies and Sylvester Stallone in Creed.
Beth Accomando: Rocky, how’s that.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Yes, the one complaint that’s being raised is that these nominations lacked diversity, were the major nominees all white?
Yazdi Pithavala: Yes, they were. If you look at all of the acting categories, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, they’re all white.
Maureen Cavannaugh: So, what potentially Oscar were the nominations by minority actors, do you think might have been overlooked?
Yazdi Pithavala: Yeah, we’ve been just talking about this. Michael B, Jordan in Creed did a tremendous job. He would have been a very good pick.
Maureen Cavannaugh: He was Creed, right?
Yazdi Pithavala: Yes.
Maureen Cavannaugh: It was a title role.
Yazdi Pithavala: Yeah, in general. I think last year, Ava DuVernay was not nominated for best director, but a lot of people thought she would for Selma and so there was a lot of ink spent on that issue and I thought that somehow the voters would correct it this year and yet here we are with the same situation, so it’s a little upsetting.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Anything that you think was particularly overlooked, Beth?
Beth Accomando: Yeah, in terms of –
Maureen Cavannaugh: Minority, yeah.
Beth Accomando: Yeah, the fact that Sylvester Stallone got the only nomination for Creed is kind of upsetting because I think Ryan Coogler came up with the perfect sequel franchise film. It perfectly blended the indie film which he is known for, he did Fruitvale Station with the big Hollywood franchise and he did such a remarkable job. I thought he would sneak in there for best director at least Creed might sneak in for the best picture category. And then the other big performance that was overlooked is Idris Elba from Beasts of No Nation. And I thought with all the controversy about him being “too street” to play bond that maybe they’d like go like oh, look at here and give him some props, but no.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Yazdi, was there any place where women in African-Americans didn’t get attention?
Yazdi Pithavala: So, I think in general this year, the female lead character was by far the most competitive one. This was the one where easily I can come up with 15 names of female actress.
Beth Accomando: Really strong actress.
Yazdi Pithavala: Very strong actress, not so much for the male acting category, but the female acting category, it has been particularly strong and heavily contested.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And there was a writing nod to…
Beth Accomando: Yeah, women – of all the categories I think the place where they stood out the most in terms of positions of power too on a film was in writing. I think there were three women who grab writing nominations. But we were just looking at the straight out of competent grab nomination for writing, but I believe all four of the writers may have been white, I’m not positive. But at least it was a film that focused on African-American characters, but apparently…
Maureen Cavannaugh: Reversed diversity.
Beth Accomando: Yeah.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And The Revenant have the most nominations as you told us Beth including acting nominations for Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Let’s hear a scene between the two of them. It takes place after DiCaprio’s character has been attacked by that bear and Hardy’s character thinks he should stop fighting death.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Now, Yazdi you liked this film and are happy to see it nominated, unlike Beth here, so why?
Yazdi Pithavala: It’s voodoo. I think what resonates for you is voodoo. When a movie turned something within your emotional circuitry, I mean I very consciously felt myself above my seat when I was watching it. I had an out-of-body experience and I lived for that, that doesn’t happen. We are also jaded and cynical and everything seemed so mediocre and when something kind of pulled you out of your seat, that’s pretty remarkable. I think it’s a combination of how majestic the movie is; the craft is impeccable. I mean these are long, long shots. There is a fabulous little piece in the middle of the movie, which was an unbroken take involving several actors, a lot of action going on. That coupled with a story which is very, very elemental, I mean the story could not be simpler. This particular director has always made very complicated complex stories and here he finally lets go off that and makes a very simple survival story. So, it all work for me.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Now, Beth, you say that the type of role, DiCaprio had in The Revenant is an example of an oscarbating, you tell us what is that?
Beth Accomando: For me, I really enjoyed the film. It was mainly Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance that kept pulling me out of the movie and to me oscarbating performances were those ones where it’s the look at me I’m acting with a capital A, and look I ate a raw bison liver, that’s acting. I was inside of carcass of an animal and I’m a handsome guy and I let myself get dirty and have bad teeth and that’s acting. To me, that was a lot of superficial aspects of the performance and I think what made it even worse is that he was up against Tom Hardy who was almost the polar opposite. He was so subtle and naturalistic and absolutely believe, but I do not think it was till the end of the film that it struck me that it was Tom Hardy playing the part.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Wow, let me move on to – you both said that this was a strong year for actresses, but one actress in a nominated picture, the Mad Max picture did not get a nomination herself Charlize Theron. Let’s hear a scene with her.
Maureen Cavannaugh: The surprising about this is that Mad Max: Fury Road got nominated at all, isn’t it?
Beth Accomando: Partially….
Maureen Cavannaugh: Yeah, I mean it was a highly rated movie, I’m not saying for the merits of the movie, but because of the type of movie it is.
Beth Accomando: Exactly, I mean the academy has not always embraced genre films. I remember when Silence of the Lamb won. I was all excited, it’s like a horror film has won, this is amazing. This is an action film. It’s a beautiful action film with a lot of subtle themes and it was nice to see the academy embrace it. Actually, you were talking about this out-of-body experience, okay, this was a film that needed seatbelts because you constantly were having this out of – like leaping out of your seat off the edge of your chair, it was fabulous, it was a fantastic action. So, I’m so pleased to see that get nominated.
Yazdi Pithavala: Particularly a movie which is so prone to excesses. I mean this is a movie about excesses and I think that’s what makes it special. I mean it’s star-craving mad and that’s the reason why it resonates for people and for a movie like that to be nominated in so many categories. It’s very atypical I would say. I’m thrilled, I couldn’t be happier.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Apparently we could talk about this for hours and hours. We’re heading into the final minutes that we have here. Yazdi, what were you hoping to see nominated that wasn’t?
Yazdi Pithavala: I think something like Straight Outta Compton. That was a movie which was very well regarded movie that I didn’t 100 percent love, but it had tremendous commercial success. It was kind of a watershed moment in this year’s cinema and it was kind of almost completely left out except for in the writing category.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And Beth?
Beth Accomando: I loved this film called Bone Tomahawk, which never played in San Diego.
Maureen Cavannaugh: With Kurt Russell.
Beth Accomando: Kurt Russell with that fabulous mustache that he kept for The Hateful Eight and he was amazing in that. And I would have loved to have seen him nominated for that and I also love the score for the horror film it follows. I thought it was really innovative and drove that film so well that I was sorry to see that not get nominated.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Now, lots of times when the nominations were announced. People say well, the academy, it went with big studios and big names and the nominations were too safe. Yazdi, do you agree with that this year that they were too safe?
Yazdi Pithavala: They were too safe in terms of being predictable, in terms of being not very diverse. But I’m glad that while the academy embraced big blockbusters like The Martian and Mad Max and so forth, they still found room for the very small movies like Room or Brooklyn, which are also very beloved to be. So, I think they did hit the balance, but definitely not in terms of diversity.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And when it comes to this really sort of major field of actresses that are great performances this year in the movie Carol, which got Golden Globe Award I believe in a couple of categories. Cate Blanchett, one of the lead actresses was not nominated for an Oscar, am I correct about that?
Yazdi Pithavala: She was.
Beth Accomando: No, she was nominated. What happens with that categories, you basically hit two lead actresses.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Two lead actresses. That’s what it is.
Beth Accomando: And rather than put them up against each other and possibly loose out either on the nomination or God forbid lose out on the award; the studios market the actresses in two different categories.
Maureen Cavannaugh: So, this is the studios that do this. It’s not the people who vote for the Oscars?
Beth Accomando: Yeah, the studio when the academy members get their screeners, they get a little sheet with the cover that the DVD has and it’ll say like for your consideration in the category of best actress Cate Blanchett, for your consideration as best supporting Rooney Mara and that’s how they hoped to kind of spread the awards around and try to ensure that maybe their candidates will win.
Maureen Cavannaugh: That’s interesting. Now, Yazdi you’re a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, how did the Oscars line up with your group’s awards?
Yazdi Pithavala: We pride ourselves on being different and just not follow the mainstream, but we actually had a lot of our winners or you can find them in the list of nominees for the Oscars; so for example, we pick Mad Max as our best movie as well as George Miller for the director, Brie Larson was picked as the best female actor and she is nominated again for the Oscar. But I think we also found time to pick some usual things. We picked for a best supporting actor male, we actually picked Tom Noonan who is not even in the movie, he only provides voice-over work, a really small movie called What We Do in the Shadows, Brilliant probably the funniest movie of the year, we picked that in the screenplay category and Oscar just ignores those little, little movies.
Maureen Cavannaugh: And just really quickly Beth, your pick for a best picture?
Beth Accomando: What I think will win?
Maureen Cavannaugh: Yes.
Beth Accomando: Sadly, it will probably be The Revenant, which I don’t think is the best of what’s nominated.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Not sadly for you.
Beth Accomando: Not sadly for you, not sadly for you.
Yazdi Pithavala: I’d be very happy if The Revenant won, but I’d say within that list I have more fondness for Mad Max.
Maureen Cavannaugh: Okay, all right then. I’ve been speaking with KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando and Yazdi Pithavala. You can find his podcast at Moviewallas.Com and look for Beth’s Cinema Junkie Podcast on the Oscars, you’ll find that tomorrow. The 88th Academy Awards will be televised on ABC on February 28th, I want to thank you both so much.
Beth Accomando: Thank you.
Yazdi Pithavala: Thank you.
Beth Accomando: Thanks for listening to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast and thanks for your patience while I was out on vacation. So, until our next film fix on Beth Accomando, your resident Cinema Junkie. You can subscribe to the Cinema Junkie Podcast on iTunes or find it atKPBS.org/cinemajunkie. Thanks again.