In 1945, John Hersey’s A Bell for Adano was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the first year after being renamed from the novel category. The story takes place toward the end of WWII, when Major Victor Joppolo is named temporary major of a fictional town named Adano, modelled on the town Licata. Hersey was a Time Magazine correspondent who later wrote Hiroshima, a book about the nuclear aftermath that should be required reading in every US History class—Hersey’s ability to prick the conscience is so great that after reading the book a Manhattan Project scientist wrote that he wept as he remembered how he celebrated the dropping of the atomic bomb.
Yet, it was A Bell for Adano that won the Pulitzer, a story that takes a more gentle and tragi-comic approach to the subtle message that the American military must operate out of the most enlightened of ideals: compassion, democracy, and freedom.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because suspense is central to the writer’s intent. Major Joppolo is convinced that the United States has “something to offer” other countries, that our proudest virtues are something we can, in fact, export. The Fascist mentality, with its cruel and arbitrary excess, is his enemy in a war not so much between the Allies and the Fascists, but between use of power to serve and uplift the masses and use of power to crush them under one’s heel.
Reading this book, you are alternately torn between a pins-and-needles feeling of wondering if Joppolo’s insubordinate actions will come back to haunt him or he’ll ride the wave of the town’s adoration indefinitely and laughter at Hersey’s humorous portrayal of the expressive Italian heart. You also wonder if he will give in to his attraction to a local beauty while away from his wife. This book is engaging and easy to read; the pace is fast, and the characters complicated enough to keep you interested. I would highly recommend A Bell for Adano as the questions it raises are just as important today as they were more than a half century ago. A Bell for Adano was also made into a 1945 film with Gene Tierney as the heartbroken Tina and John Hodiak as Major Joppolo.
Gone With the Wind
Gone With the Wind, the dramatic Civil War tale by Margaret Mitchell, is perhaps the most famous Pulitzer Prize winning novel (1936) to be made into a feature film. The 1939 film, starring Vivienne Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and became an instant classic. If you love the film, it’s hard to imagine that the book could be any better. Yet it is. The book hits a sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction, with characters that are as hopelessly tormented as they are flawed; yet with passionate natures that garner respect. This book is more than one thousand pages long, and is more full of Southern nostalgia than is politically correct today, but the saddest part about Gone With The Wind is that the author was tragically struck down by an automobile in 1949 before she could publish a sequel.
One of the most important filmmakers of all time, Jean Luc Godard has made over 40 feature films, in addition to numerous film shorts, written screenplays, produced, and published his own and others film criticism world wide. He has had a wider influence on audiences and filmmaking than most any other living filmmaker of our time, despite most audiences not even knowing it. The reason for his profound, and often unknown influence, is that he has remained deliberately obscure, independent, and unique, for over 50 years as a filmmaker, yet cinefiles such as known influential directors including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and many more have studied his work, citing him as a major influence.
One who knows Godard, could easily write a book on Godard, as many have done. I have seen only 30 of his motion pictures. Jean Luc Godard’s greatness is manifold. One of his most powerful contributions to cinema is his daring uses of sound as art, such as having sounds from former scenes cut and overlap into present scenes, having sounds blend together, or having sound disappear entirely for stronger cinematic effect. His infusion of politics and philosophy into cinema is also unique; often having characters discourse or debate politics or philosophy on screen, and at times even reading out of a book of poetry or philosophy right on camera, inter-weaving the message throughout the film. Godard’s reference to and use of fine art in his films are also unique, using artwork not only as a set design piece or a prop, but literally referencing painters within the duologue, or showing characters creating a painting, as they discuss the colors, hues, tones, or feelings that they evoke, blending this too within the film.
Godard’s occasional use of nudity is portrayed as a work of art itself, not gratuitous, but simply there, as a part of life as art for arts sake. Violence in his films are treated as a reality of life, but one that should be avoided yet not ignored. Beauty, art, life, philosophy, women, and love are revered in Godard’s work, while chaos, destruction, government, warfare, and politics are derided as evils to fight or shun. As a former film critic, films are referenced within many Godard films, either blatantly with a poster of a film on the wall or a mention of it, or as an homage to a scene re-created. Light and the camera lens are used artistically as a painting in a Godard film. He may have the cinematographer point the lens directly at the sky as some birds pass by, or simply gaze upon some clouds, trees, or rolling water. Godard puts the emphasis on the aesthetic beauty and power of the object in front of the camera, rather than subverting aesthetics to action or dialogue.
Dialogue itself rolls out in a Godard film like a play, or often times like poetry, with stream of consciousness or nuanced fashion punctuated by a musical score or unique editing technique. Music in a Godard film often is classical; form Mozart to Beethoven or more, providing sweeping waves of emotion as a foreground or background to the scene or dialogue. Editing techniques by Godard are classic New Wave style, cutting long after the end of an action, a shot may linger on a subject no longer doing anything plot related, simply being or doing something ordinary, observing them as Andy Warhol may have done in one of his screen tests, simply letting the subject ‘be there’ and not imposing the time or space of a film on the subject with an ordinary edit. Godard popularized this technique, as well as the jump cut, cutting from one scene to an entirely different one, arguing that the viewer was smart enough to follow the change. This Godardian effect alone revolutionized cinema, with his landmark, groundbreaking debut feature film ‘Breathless,’ which also widely influenced the music video to come years later.
Lastly, Godard revolutionized cinema further still by his use of camera technique. While Hollywood cinema follows a traditional ‘blocking’ technique of focusing on the primary character in either a long shot (LS), medium shot (MS), close up (CU), or extreme close up (ECU), normally at eye level and following the so called Golden Meane; at the upper middle left of the picture plane where the viewers eyesight allegedly first goes, Godard throws this out the window, and may mix up a variety of shots in blended, reverse, or broken sequence that deliberately shock the viewer, or may focus on a secondary character when the primary character is talking, or he may focus on another part of a persons body instead of their face when their mouth is moving, for example. In other words, Godard throws the so called rules of filmmaking away, often doing everything possible a different way, in order to shake up the medium, transgress the art, and enliven the viewer. Poetic, philosophical, and anarchistic with the creation of his motion pictures, Jean Luc Godard is, without debate, one of the most revered and important filmmakers of all time. The Hollywood Sentinel ranks him among the Top 10 Greatest Filmmakers of All Time.
Jean Luc Godard’s feature films include: 1960 Breathless, 1960 Le Petit soldat, 1961 A Woman Is a Woman, 1962 My Life to Live, 1963 Les Carabiniers, 1963 Contempt, 1964 Band of Outsiders, 1964 A Married Woman, 1964 Alphaville, 1965 Pierrot le fou, 1966 Masculin Féminin, 1966 Made in U.S.A., 1967 Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967 La Chinoise, 1967 Week End, 1968 Le Gai savoir, 1968 A Film Like the Others, 1968 One Plus One, 1969 Wind from the East, 1969 Struggles in Italy, 1971 Vladimir et Rosa, 1972 Tout va bien, 1974 Here and Elsewhere, 1975 Number Two, 1976 How’s It Going?, 1980 Every Man for Himself, 1982 Passion, 1983 First Name: Carmen, 1985 Hail Mary, 1985 Détective, 1987 King Lear, 1987 Keep Your Right Up, 1990 New Wave, 1991 Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, 1993 The Kids Play Russian, 1993 Oh Woe Is Me, 1994 JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December, 1996 For Ever Mozart, 2001 In Praise of Love, 2004 Notre musique, 2010 Film Socialisme, and 2014 Goodbye to Language, his first in 3D.
– Bruce Edwin
Goodbye to Language
Goodbye to Language is a deconstructed film. I have read the filmmaker’s comments about the plot (which were tweeted) and also some of the critical discussion, but I wanted to review the film before being contaminated by those influences in order to have a genuine experience and express it from a blank starting place, taking it on its own as best I could.
Goodbye to Language is the 21st century equivalent of what Guernica was to painting: a film created by a man who loves film so much he wants to destroy it. Vision competes with narrative. The luxury of seeing destroys meaning. It’s a 3-D movie made by an artist of the highest caliber; which is sort of like having a twinkie made by Gordon Ramsey. There was a particular moment of the interior of a room with a window overlooking a summer field that is one of the most singularly striking images I have ever seen in film and reminded me in its ethos of Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage.
I concluded, sometime after the last credits had rolled, that this was the story of an adulterous couple and jealous murder told through the eyes of the couple’s adopted dog (the dog jumps into their car, they decide to keep him). The dog was played by Godard’s own dog. I believed the dog was the observer because of the non-chronology and the presentation of dialogue, as well as a reference to Jack London and Call of the Wild (which, coincidentally, I had just finished reading).
Godard’s own statements in this regard also include a subplot relating to a second couple, the relation of which to the main couple I don’t think anyone would have understood as fully as Godard’s description, but the film is so experimental that it doesn’t really matter what it is about, and each audience will make sense of it somewhat differently.
More than 150 Oscar nominees, along with 87th Oscars® host Neil Patrick Harris, got together at noon on Monday, February 2, at the Beverly Hilton when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored this year’s Oscar contenders at its annual Nominees Luncheon. The 87th Oscars was held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and was televised live on the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The Oscars were produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and was televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.
Directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams, actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards® on January 15th. For the first time, nominees in all 24 categories were announced live. Mr. Cuarón and Mr. Abrams announced the nominees in 11 categories at 5:30 a.m. PT, followed by Mr. Pine and Ms. Boone Isaacs for the remaining 13 categories at 5:38 a.m. PT, at the live news conference attended by more than 400 international media representatives. Academy members from each of the 17 branches voted to determine the nominees in their respective categories – actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors, etc. In the Animated Feature Film and Foreign Language Film categories, nominees were selected by a vote of multi-branch screening committees. All voting members were eligible to select the Best Picture nominees. The Governors Ball was held in the Ray Dolby Ballroom on the top level of the Hollywood & Highland after the awards.
While Alejandro G. Iñárritu won’t win any awards with parents trying to teach their children not to swear on live public television, the director of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), did win for best picture. Neil Patrick Harris managed to offend many Oscar nominees and winners, including insulting one woman for the dress she chose to wear. He further disturbed many conservative audiences around the country for appearing on stage in his underwear as a gag to try imitate the scene of Michael Keaton in the winning film, Birdman.
Lady Gaga surprised many critics, by delivering a beautiful rendition of the classic song “The Sound of Music” from the musical of the same title starring and originally sung by Julie Andrews, who she introduced. Ms. Andrews commended Gaga on her delivery. A very gracious and cordial Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his starring role in “The Theory of Everything” as a young Steven Hawking. Tegan and Sara performed a fun performance of “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego Movie, with a large backing troupe of singers and dancers. Glen Campbell was commended with his heartfelt new song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” referencing his current condition of Alzheimers and how he will selfishly not miss his beloved wife because he will be gone. A long list of stars who have passed last year were saluted.
The Nominations for the 87th Academy Awards, and winners (highlighted), are as follows:
Performance by an actor in a leading role
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”
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher” 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”
Performance by an actress in a supporting role 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”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Best animated feature film of the year “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
Achievement in 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
Achievement in 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
Achievement in directing “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
Best 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
Best 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
Achievement in 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
Best foreign language film of the year “Ida” Poland
“Wild Tales” Argentina
Achievement in 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
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (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
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie” Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson “Glory,” 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
Best motion picture of the year
“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
“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
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers
Achievement in 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
Best 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
Best 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
Achievement in 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
Achievement in 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
Achievement in 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
“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
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners—the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who loves movies.