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Norfolk VA, 23517
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Chasing Oscar: Award Season Fever

by Tench Phillips

This time of the year I see familiar faces returning to the cinema who have been missing on Colley Ave for way too long. Confined and isolated in their homes cloistered behind numerous screens and platforms, they have now stepped outside and sought out the films receiving all the award buzz. Realizing that these films can only be seen in theaters, they have been coaxed to rediscover the magic of a big screen public viewing experience – or what defines cinema.

Almost all of the Oscar nominees this year are artistic films that are character driven with smart story lines. More than ever the nominees duplicate those of The Independent Spirit Awards. These are not the typical Hollywood blockbuster that drive the box-office success of the studios and exhibition chains. These nominees are films for grownups, a demographic that has continued to shrink at the box-office along with the number of films created for them. A total of five of the eight nominees for Best Picture had their premieres at the Naro Cinema, a record number for this area’s only art screen.

There’s a concern that The Academy Awards Show scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, Feb 22 will have a smaller viewership due to the lack of recognition of the film titles that draw the majority of the movie-going public. But another factor of possible fading interest in the show is that the season is long and the other award ceremonies preceding the Oscars have stolen much of the glitter and glamour. I myself have a love-hate relationship with the whole award business. The media attention received by only a limited number of films supersedes the recognition of so many deserving films so often ignored and forgotten by the public.

But in a fragmented and crowded media universe, theater owners take what we can get in the way of press and media coverage. The Naro capitalizes on the award season as much as any theater chain. It’s a compromise made easier for us when the movies receiving all the glory are as deserving as the ones for this year.

We continue to feature the films in three categories that go mostly unseen – the short film categories of animation, live-action, and documentaries. These short features have grown more important in the age of YouTube when many viewers enjoy short bursts of videos and resist seeing longer features that require a time commitment. Many a budding young filmmaker have cut their teeth on a short film hoping to be discovered and catapulted to a coveted position at the top of a larger film project. These short programs always reveal unexpected gems and herald the arrival of the next new thing.

Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

2015 Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animation This year's program includes the five nominees: Me and My Moulton (Canadian), Feast (USA, Walt Disney Studios), The Bigger Picture (UK), A Single Life (Netherlands), The Dam Keeper (USA). In addition the program features four animated films not receiving a nomination but were definite contenders:  Sweet Cocoon, Footprints, Duet, and Bus Story. The entire program runs 77 minutes. Shows Tuesday, Feb 17.

PELICAN DREAMS Filmmaker Judy Irving (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill) follows a wayward, starving California brown pelican from her “arrest” on the Golden Gate Bridge into care at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, and from there explores the pelicans’ nesting grounds and their Pacific coast migration. The film is about wildness: How close can we get to a wild animal without taming or harming it? Why do we need wildness in our lives, and how can we protect it? Sometimes referred to as “flying dinosaurs”, pelicans have an ancient magic about them. Their near-extinction in the seventies, their recovery, and now their most recent die-off parallels our human relationship to the environment. (85 mins) Presented with The Center for Biological Diversity. Shows Wednesday, Feb 18.

2015 Oscar Winning Shorts: Animation, Live-Action, and Documentaries The Academy Award Winners in each category will be presented in a program that will include a few other surprises. Shows Tuesday, Feb 24.

THE SHINING Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece has been interpreted differently as being about the crisis in masculinity, sexism, corporate capitalism, racism, and the genocide of native American indians. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer's block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack's writing goes nowhere and Danny's visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel's dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family. (144 mins) Presented with AltDaily. Shows Friday, Feb 20.

THE BETTER ANGELS From writer/director A.J. Edwards, a protégé of Terrence Malick (who produced the film), comes the story of young Abraham Lincoln's difficult childhood. The film is set in the Indiana woods, 1817, when Abe (Braydon Denney, in a striking performance) was eight. The entire nation, only 40 years old and a few years removed from a second war of independence, is raw. Men, women and children alike must battle nature and disease to survive in remote log cabins. The Better Angels explores Abe's family and the two women, his mother and later his step-mother, who guided him to immortality. Edwards creates breathtaking visual and narrative poetry to express the Lincolns' world. With Brit Marling, Diane Kruger and Wes Bentley. (95 mins) Shows Wednesday, Feb 25 with post-film discussion led by Chrysler Museum’s Alex Mann, curator of the new exhibit “Shooting Lincoln: Photography and the Sixteenth President”.

NATIONAL GALLERY The National Gallery in London is one of the great museums of the world with 2400 masterpieces from the 13th to the end of the 19th century. We are taken behind the scenes of this institution to experience the paintings through the eyes of scholars, scientists, curators, museum administrators, and the viewing public. The relation between painting and storytelling is explored. Renowned documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s acclaimed film has been voted by many critics as one of the best films of the year. (180 mins) Presented with The Chrysler Museum. Shows Wednesday, March 4.

Veer - Feb., 2015

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