Friday, May 31, 2024

“Jim Henson: Idea Man”: The Life Behind The Genius Creator of “The Muppet Show”

 By José Alberto Hermosillo


“Jim Henson: Idea Man” is a fresh new approach to address the life and body of work of the genius creator of “The Muppet Show” Jim Henson. The documentary is awe-inspiring, entertaining, and quite enjoyable.

Ron Haward. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 FestivalinLA
 
In “Jim Herson: Idea Man,” Award-winning director Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Thirteen Lives”) presents a linear, structured narrative mainly focusing on the work of the Muppets creator, not on his personal life. People who adored the show can consider it a treasure. Not so much for hardcore fans who say that plenty more information is missing, including Jim’s cause of death. A bacterial infection at the age of 53 - even though this documentary is a Disney Plus movie, not Pixar’s “Coco,” a profound animation that reaches the other side of the world of death. 
 
The main reason Ron Howard selected the material light-handedly in the documentary on Jim Henson is that he wanted to keep it hopeful and not sentimental. Howard felt like he was offering a real insight into the life of the creator of the puppets of “Sesame Street.” Howard saw the paradox between his material and Henson’s experimental films, which were very optimistic, human, and revealing.
 
After years of struggle, the young puppeteer with an enormous desire to work in television had his first successful attempt with the inclusion of his Muppets characters interacting with humans in “Sesame Street” during the Summer of 1969. 

Time magazine featuring Big Bird in 1970. Cover credit: Bill Pierce.

A year later, Time magazine featured his Big Bird on the cover with the quote: “… It’s not only the best children’s TV show in history, it is also one of the best parents’ shows as well.”
 
After the 
“Sesame Street” success, Henson could not find producers to make the “Muppets Show” a reality in the United States. Then, the production took a more international approach when Sir Lew Grade, the owner of the British ATV Starion, produced two specials with him: “Julie on Sesame Street” and “Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.”
 
Sir. Grade was familiar with puppet television programs and offered Henson a deal to record “Muppets Show” at the Elstree Studios in England. The deal also included an international broadcasting contract with more than one hundred countries to air the show. 

Before departing to the U.K., Henson set aside his syndication and other union contracts with the Writers’ Guild and started production in London as soon as possible.
 
During the show’s taping, the producers followed and succeeded in booking big Hollywood stars such as Diana Ross, Henry Belafonte, and Tina Turner to participate as special guests of “The Muppet Show.”
 
Aired on Sundays, “The Muppet Show” had an astronomical acceptance. During the last three months of 1976, it was viewed by 14 million in Great Britain.
 
Before making the documentary, the Henson family was reluctant to have the creative patriarch’s image and private life going public for numerous reasons. Looking at the archive, Ron Howard saw different options to approach his newest adventure. He focused on the entire family behind the creator and, of course, on the unforgettable characters.

Howard unfolds almost a biographical story that includes fabulous archival clips, treasured interviews, glorious footage behind the cameras, and some staggering and boundless graphic material that will keep us wondering more about the conception and embodiment of those dear and unforgettable characters and the creator himself. Disney Plus and a dozen other producers, counting members of the Henson family and the estate’s heirs, proceeded to produce the new documentary.

The music, produced by Hans Zimmer and composed by David Fleming (Blue Planet), is driven by playfulness and joy. Fleming adjusted to the time compression and moved around emotions dealing with ambition, creativity, a higher spirit, and Henson’s joyful place. Fleming focused on the diversity of the characters and the universality of the inspiring creations.

"Jim Herson: Idea Man" Panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 FestivalinLA

In the documentary, the evolution of Henson’s story connects with our memories of “The Muppet Show” and our personal childhood experiences at that time as we identified with Jim and his diverse characters.

The editor cleaned up the interviews with the Henson family using AI (Artificial Intelligence). The interviews give a unique flow to the linear structure. Those recordings were demanding and energizing for everyone, including the animation crew. According to the panel presented by Deadline at Vidiots in Eagle Rock, California, everyone who participated in Henson’s documentary wanted to make it right.

Jim Henson and his Muppet characters. 

The documentary was made to keep Jim’s voice active in a preservation form and to denote the evolution of Mr. Henson from his participation in “Sesame Street” into “The Muppets Show” and subsequently in the feature films proceeded and produced by the Jim Henson Company.
 
The interviews recalled the experiences of working with Mr. Henson with Academy Award-winners
 Jennifer Connelly and Rita Moreno, which are essential for audiences to sympathize with the main character and his creations. Late in the game, the producers of “Idea Man” continue finding more material regarding Henson’s work.

Ron Howard continues finding subjects with stories that really matter, and it is fascinating to discover, in this case, Jim’s early work. This documentary is about Henson’s journey and the challenges of risking everything he had to deliver one of the most transcendental shows in history for the entire family.

 

I applaud Howard’s team’s courage and tenacity in bringing to light the work and creations of the “Idea Man,” who, by creating one of the most influential TV shows, helped millions of children and parents learn, accept, and make this world a better place to live.


Vidiots screening, Eagle Rock, California. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 FestivalinLA


Vidiots’ Jim Henson’s movies on DVD display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 FestivalinLA

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Friday, March 22, 2024

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING - OSCAR WEEK 2024

 By José Alberto Hermosillo


BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING 2024 PANEL

To select the Best Makeup and Hairstyling nominees, the Makeup Academy Branch has its own implicit statutes, which require choosing an element from these three categories: a period piece, a contemporary/dramatic film, and a fantasy/Sci-Fi movie. 

Established in 1981, the Makeup and Hairstyling category has recognized some of the most iconic character transformations in history. 

In recent years, a strong connection between the winning actor/actress and the winner of the Makeup & Hairstyling category has grown. 

For instance, in 2007, “La Vie En Rose” won Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Marion Cotillard took the Best Actress award for playing the quintessential French singer Êdith Piaf. In 2012, “The Iron Lady” won Makeup and Meryl Streep Best Actress. In 2014, “Dallas Buyers Club” won Makeup, and Matthew McConaughey earned his first Best Actor Oscar. In 2017, “The Darkest Hour” won Makeup and Gary Oldman Best Actor. In 2022, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” got Makeup and Jessica Chastain Best Actress. In 2023, Brendan Fraser won Best Actor, and “The Whale” won Best Makeup and Hairstyling. In 2024, “Poor Things” won Best Makeup, and Emma Stone won her second Oscar for playing Bella Baxter in the gothic female version of Frankenstein. 

The 2023 selected films meeting the criteria are: “Golda,” “Maestro,” and “Oppenheimer,” which are period pieces; “Poor Things” can be considered fantasy, and “Society of the Snow” in the drama category. 

THE BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING NOMINEES ARE:

“Golda”
“Maestro”
“Oppenheimer”
“Poor Things” WINNER!
“Society of the Snow”

“Golda”

Academy Award-winning actress Hellen Mirren (“The Queen,” “Gosford Park,” and “The Madness of King George”) as Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir faces one of the most challenging crises of her government, The Yom Kippur War in 1973.

"Golda” poster, makeup panel ©2024 Festival in LA

"Golda” makeup panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Nominees: Karen Hartley Thomas, Suzi Battersby, and Ashra Kelly-Blue.

“Golda” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Golda” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA


“Maestro” 

Bradley Cooper directed and portrayed the life of the first American-Jewish conductor-composer and music instructor, Leonard Bernstein, in this intense, elegant, and educative film.

"Maestro,” makeup panel. Photo ©2024 Festival in L

“Maestro,” makeup panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in AL

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Nominees: Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou, and Lori McCoy-Bell.

“Maestro,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Maestro,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Maestro,” makeup panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Maestro,” makeup panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Maestro,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Oppenheimer” 

Irish actor Cillian Murphy brings to life the American scientist and physicist  J. Robert Oppenheimer and the crucial moment in history of developing the atomic bomb.


"Oppenheimer,” makeup panel. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Nominee: Luisa Abel.

"Oppenheimer,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

"Oppenheimer,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

"Oppenheimer,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Poor Things” 

Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter in the gothic female version of Frankenstein.

"Poor Things," Poster ©2024 Festival in LA


"Poor Things," makeup panel with Willem Dafoe. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
“Poor Things,” makeup panel with Willem Dafoe. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Nominees: Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier, and Josh Weston. WINNERS!!!

“Poor Things,” makeup panel with Willem Dafoe. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Poor Things,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Poor Things,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Poor Things,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

“Society of the Snow” 

Spanish director J. Antonio Bayona produced and directed the third version of the survival drama of the Uruguayan rugby players who crashed in the Los Andes region of South America. “Survive!/Supervivientes de los Andes” was the first version produced by Mexico in 1976. Then, in 1993, “Alive” was made in Hollywood in English. 

"Society of the Snow," Poster ©2024 Festival in LA

"Society of the Snow," makeup pane. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
“Society of the Snow,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Nominees: Ana López-Puigcerver, David Martí, and Montse Ribé.

"Society of the Snow," makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
“Society of the Snow,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

"Society of the Snow," makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
“Society of the Snow,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

"Society of the Snow," makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
“Society of the Snow,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA

"Society of the Snow," makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA
 “Society of the Snow,” makeup display. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo ©2024 Festival in LA


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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Anatomy of a Fall: An Intellectual Dissection of a Broken Marriage

 By José Alberto Hermosillo 


"Anatomy of a Fall" is a sublime, thrilling, and transcendental modern work of art - masterfully written, directed, performed, photographed, and edited.
The family courtroom drama focuses on a freak accident, its repercussions, and the unsettled battle of the sexes continuing after death.

The 2023 Palme d'Or winner contains three familiar and robust characters who speak in different languages - French, German, and English, as common ground. Despite their blood ties, the three members of the family are drawn into life-changing circumstances where death, entrapment, and murder play a significant role in their lives. But absolutely none of them plays the victim in this well-rounded, multi-layered story.
Up in the snowy mountains of Grenoble, France, the apparently harmonious family composed of a successful and busy German author named Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), a frustrated French writer/teacher, Samuel Moleski (Samuel Theis), and their son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner).
Milo Machado-Graner is a young and promising actor with a successful career in French movies such as "Stuck Together" and "Waiting for Bojangles." The talented actor is extraordinary in "Anatomy of a Fall." He portrays a legally bling, independent teenager who likes to hike with his service dog, Messi, on the snowy trails of the Dauphine Alps, where they live.
Later in the film, we learn that the intellectual couple constantly fights because they blame each other for their child's accident that left him with impaired vision and how to manage their "precious time" to take care of their eleven-year-old son. 
Because of the accident, Daniel developed a high sensitivity to light exposure, which made him partially blind. He is independent but still needs adult supervision. Regardless of his impediment, Daniel plays the piano beautifully and walks daily by the mountain trail with his trained dog.
The dog Messi from "Anatomy of a Fall" at the Oscar Luncheon.
Le chien, Messi has been recognized as the absolute winner of the "Palm Dog" Award for his performance in this movie during this past edition of the Cannes Film Festival. He is making big waves on the red carpets in Hollywood during the 2024 award season.
After Samuel's tragic death, Daniel continued his piano lesson rehearsing "Asturias" (Leyenda), which was composed by Issac Albéniz. The strident music played during "The Fall" and replayed during the gathering of evidence is bringing more confusion and chaos. The music is recurrent and a pivotal part of the narrative.
"Anatomy of a Fall" is divided into three structural parts, the day of the accident, the trial, and the unexpected resolution.
The film cleverly builds tension in some scenes; in others, it lingers through the beauty of the natural locations thanks to Simon Beaufils's gorgeous cinematography ("My Donkey, My Lover, and I," "Knife + Heart).
After the "fall," the trial is immediate. The pace of the film progresses rapidly, as the family has no time to grieve. Furthermore, we see the wife in the house training with her lawyer on what to say or not to say before the trial and how she has to justify the bruises on her arm.
After examining all the evidence and collecting the people's statements, the prosecutors find some discrepancies that may alter the cause of death, whether the case can be considered an accident or murder. Even though the film clearly stipulates the legal repercussions of the "questionable death" happened a year later.
The prosecutors found the husband's recordings with some of the most recent couple's fights playing in the courtroom. That surprisingly new piece of incriminating evidence may point against the famous writer.
The struggle between the two writers becomes a battle of the sexes, with the evident husband's frustration with his wife's success making him look like he is igniting and manipulating those intense discussions. 
The recordings were made without her consent or knowledge, which is considered illegal in some States of the United States. Still, in France, they are used as contentious proof of the couple's instability.

In European films, children are usually treated as adults, no matter how complex or disturbing situations they have to endure. The legally blind boy becomes the key witness in the case. 
For a child, it is devastating to lose his father, witness his mother's trial, listen to the recordings of his parents' fights in court, and give his crucial testimony that may incriminate or save his mother.
Testifying as an adult makes Daniel aware of the situation, and he must decide whether he would like to save his mother or help the prosecutor bring her to justice.

The performance by German actress Sandra Hüller ("The Zone of Interest," "I'm Your Man," "Toni Erdmann") is impressive. She displays a wide range of emotions, and even when she lies, we think she is telling the truth.
In "Anatomy of a Fall," French director Justine Trier cleverly plays with the perception of the truth according to each player's needs, interests, and points of view. Justine Trier graduated from the Paris School of Fine Arts and is an Oscar nominee for Best Director; she has an extraordinary filmmaking career with solid previous projects such as "The Age of Panic," "Sibyl," and "Victoria." In all her films, she has three recurrent topics: family, writers, and legal matters.
Justine Triet, Palme d'Or Winner, Cannes 2023. Photo: Par Par Francois BECKER et © 2023 AFP

With the theory of the phenomenon of the unreliability of the eyewitness, "Anatomy of a Fall" can be related to Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon." A few years later, in 1964, Hollywood came out with the remake of the Japanese classic called "The Outrage" with Paul Newman. This particular Western, directed by Martin Ritt ("Hud," "Hombre," and "Norman Rae"), is another clear example of how the truth can be distorted according to the witnesses' point of view, background, beliefs, and personal experiences.
In 1957, Sidney Lumet's "12 Angry Men" rounded off the perceptions of twelve jury members who had to deliver the conviction or acquittal of an eighteen-year-old boy accused of murder. They had reasonable doubts and concluded that there was not enough hard evidence to prove the boy's guilt.
Since its premiere in Cannes, "Anatomy of a Fall" has collected numerous awards worldwide. In the US, the film has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.
In France, the film won six César Awards, including Best Picture. In England, it won the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay. In Spain, it won Best European Film at the Goya's Ceremony, and the list of recognitions for the French/Germain join goes on.
In this legal matter, winning or losing the case in court would not bring peace to the souls of the people involved. Still, it raises more questions about what is next when they lose someone they love in a freak accident and if the accident was intentionally planned or a successful suicide attempt. It all is up to the viewer to figure out what really happened.
Regardless of any conspiracy theory, the film is open to the public interpretation. Let "Anatomy of a Fall" sit for a while to process an unforgettable film that is making big waves around the world for its enormous quality in storytelling.
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