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Mitchell Block Direct: V1 Issue 3: Chasing Ice, Maggie Simpson, and the Academy Shortlisted Documentary Film Nominations

Mitchell Block Direct: V1 Issue 3: Chasing Ice, Maggie Simpson, and the Academy Shortlisted Documentary Film Nominations

Vol. I Issue 3
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Chasing Ice  directed by Jeff Orlowski

Chasing Ice is the story of James Balog’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

In a year where the Short Listed Academy documentary features deal with issues ranging from sexual harassment in the military to the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexually molesting children, Chasing Ice deals with arguably the most important issue proving that the ice caps are melting and that the warming of the planet will have a catastrophic effect.  But this is a year where the MPAA rating of a film about bullying school students has seemed to get the most press.  That’s a shame. Chasing Ice needs to be seen. It is the most important short listed documentary film of the year. Like Davis Guggenheim’s Al Gore PowerPoint presentation, this film is scary. With never-before-seen time lapse photography we can dramatically see the ice caps and giant glaciers shrinking. A chunk of ice the size of lower Manhattan crashes into the sea. The ice flows like a river into the sea. We all know that when the ice melts, it releases its fresh water into the sea and that the water will rise. In time a few feet.  Say good bye to land that several hundred million people live on. 

So what’s the problem?  They don’t have the press machine of Bob and Harvey Weinstein that makes a mountain out of an MPAA rating. Can the Oscar nomination go to the most important film? (could this paragraph go after next paragraph?)

But wait, there is more. This is a strikingly well made film. It has a compelling character, James Balog, who is giving his body to science and this cause. The cracks we hear are not chunks of ice but his knees disintegrating as he scales cliffs of rock and ice.  The filmmakers really are risking their lives making the film, the ice takes no prisoners, the small planes and helicopters regularly crash. The film unfolds with precision; we are moved and awed by the characters and the stunning photography.  The score is first rate as is the editing. This is a work that should be short listed but might be overlooked because it lacks the political coolness of some of the other films. This would be a shame.

Chasing Ice is directed by Jeff Orlowski, cinematographer for the Extreme Ice Survey, and an award-winning filmmaker. A Stanford University graduate, he has been working with Balog since 2007 and has shot over 300 hours of footage of EIS in the field. His work for EIS has screened on NBC, CNN, PBS, National Geographic, and hundreds of other venues around the world.

The film is produced by Paula DuPre’ Pesmen, the winner of the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary and 2010 Producers Guild of America ‘Producer of the Year’ for her role on The Cove. She has also served as producer on three Harry Potter films, Rent, and Mrs. Doubtfire. The film is also produced by Jerry Aronson, nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary The Divided Trail, and the director of The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg.

Director/Producer: Jeff Orlowski
Producers: Paula DuPre’ Pesmen, Jerry Aronson
Executive Producers: David and Linda Cornfield
Writer: Mark Monroe
Cinematography: Jeff Orlowski
Music Composer:  J. Ralph
Editor, Mark Monroe
Production:  Diamond Docs (in association with)
Exposure Production, Exposure
Distributors (US): Submarine Deluxe and National Geographic Channel  

Maggie Simpson a short animated film by David Silverman

The Longest Daycare is a four-and-a-half-minute-long animated 3D short animated film based on the animated television series The Simpsons.

Directed by David Silverman The Longest Daycare is one of my favorite short animated films short listed for the Oscar this year. Silverman, credited with creating the look of the Simpsons, has directed numerous episodes of this hit series. Daycare has no dialogue. It is hilarious in part because of its silent film style. It is smart and fun. Maggie is a delight. This short film is really special. Between the 3D, the super clever writing and the stunning animation style, it is one of the very rare animations that can be enjoyed by any audience. Silverman’s work deserves an Oscar.

Scored by Hans Zimmer, best known for his work on Hollywood blockbusters, the score references numerous films scores and adds another layer of meaning to this magnificent (really?) work. Silverman attended the University of Maryland College Park and studied animation at UCLA. 

Directed by: David Silverman
Produced by: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Richard Raynis, Richard Sakai
Written by: James L. Brooks, Joel H. Cohen, Matt Groening, Al Jean, David Mirkin, Michael Price
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Dooley (addition music)
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Running time: 4:30

Academy announces 15 feature documentary films shortlisted for the Documentary Film Nomination

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the short listed documentary features on December 3, 2012.  Under the new documentary branch rules all of the branch members as well as documentary nominees and award winners from other Academy branches could vote for the short listed films. About 180 Academy members participated.  Dropping the committee process where four committees would screen one quarter of the submitted films, Documentary Branch Governor Michael Moore pushed the branch to use a preferential voting system with all branch members and other qualified Academy members participating.  As this writer expected, works with a lot of hype, such as Bully, were short listed.  One can wonder how many members who voted for this film actually saw it. In addition to changing the short listing process, the branch demanded that films had to have been reviewed in either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times.  Voters received 126 DVDs in the mail.  

A number of worthy films were omitted, as is always the case, including:  The Central Park Five  (directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon), West of Memphis (directed by Amy Berg), The Queen of Versailles, directed by Lauren Greenfield.   I also really liked Bad 25 (directed by Spike Lee) and Love Marilyn (directed by Liz Garbus). Samsara (directed by Ron Fricke) is the year’s best documentary for its sheer poetry

The Academy can choose to nominate up to three people. However, only the director has a lock on the nomination. Individuals credited as “Producer” are vetted by the Producer’s Guild. Each must prove that they did a majority of the producer roles. This is the third year that this rule has been in force.  Many of the films have multiple “producers” so it remains to be seen who will receive nominations. The decision of the Academy will be announced once the films are nominated.  This has been somewhat contentious in the past.

AMPAS rules follow:

  1. The nominee(s) should be the individual(s) most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process.  A maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control, and the other of whom must have a producer or director credit.  If a producer is named, that individual must have performed a major portion of the producing functions, in accordance with Academy producer criteria.  No more than two statuettes will normally be given in the Documentary Feature category.  All individuals with a “Producer” or “Produced by” credit on films that reach the semifinal round will automatically be vetted.  The Documentary Branch Executive Committee will determine which producers, if any, are eligible to receive an Oscar.  In the unlikely event of a dispute, filmmakers may appeal the committee’s decision.  In extremely rare circumstances, a third statuette may be awarded.
  2. Production companies or persons with the screen credit of executive producer, co-producer or any credit other than director or producer shall not be eligible as nominees for the motion picture.

The Short List: 

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman
Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch
Chasing Ice, directed by Jeff Orlowski
Detropia, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Ethel, directed by Rory Kennedy
5 Broken Cameras, directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh
The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki
How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France
The Imposter, directed by Bart Layton
The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, directed by Alex Gibney
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul
This Is Not a Film, directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi
The Waiting Room, directed by Peter Nicks

The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards will be announced at 5:30 am (PST) on Thursday, January 10, 2013. The awards will be handed out on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).

Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the IDA as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-LA and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.


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