Lost in the Movies: Oscar Blues montage: Honoring Spike Lee & Gena Rowlands

Oscar Blues montage: Honoring Spike Lee & Gena Rowlands

It's been a busy week. Since last Thursday, my long-delayed Fandor video on Anna Karina went up, I released three more (also long-delayed) videos that I'd been working on for a while (see The Killing & The Asphalt Jungle Side by Side and Rimbaud's "The Stolen Heart" in addition to this one), my short guest spot on the Twin Peaks Unwrapped podcast went up (and I also made appearances, via feedback, on a Star Wars episode of No Ship Network and guested on Obnoxious & Anonymous - jump to 35:16 for the beginning of our Twin Peaks season 3 speculation/discussion). Additionally, one of my videos was featured on this week's Twin Peaks Tuesday column on One Perfect Shot. After something of a dry spell in terms of productivity and (especially) output, the old saying "It don't rain but it pours" certainly applies.

With all of that catch-up out of the way, this latest entry in my Montage series may be the work I'm most excited to present this week. Its origins stretch back to my dissatisfaction with the Academy Awards six years ago, when I learned that they had decided to stop airing the Honorary Awards. Frequently given to film veterans who had never actually won an Oscar in competition, the Honoraries were a great way to pay tribute to the medium's past and remind us, amidst all the superficiality of the ceremony, that the movies are an art form created by imaginative, hard-working individuals, many of whom are misunderstood or underappreciated in their time.

Further explanation, relevant links, images from the video, and the Vimeo upload all follow the jump.

I wrote a polemical piece about this in 2011, "Dishonorary Oscars", when I decided to stop watching the show out of frustration. This video, "Oscar Blues" comes from the same place but it ended up being more about honoring the people the broadcast ignores than griping about that snub. In particular it focuses on this year's two recipients, Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee (who wouldn't be attending the ceremony anyway, in protest over the lack of black nominations - by the way it's worth noting that Oscars' batting average has been higher in the honorary/humanitarian award category, yet that's what gets axed from the show...go figure). I chose one film by each to focus the montage: Malcolm X, an old favorite, and Opening Night, which I'd never seen until a couple weeks ago. Both film clips contain some violence and brief profanity, so this may be mildly not-safe-for-work depending on your environment and/or sensibilities.

As with every Montage video, the footage is cut to a specific track, in this case a live recording of "So What" by the Miles Davis Quintet (definitely follow that link to watch the fantastic performance - I was limited to an excerpt for the video). Specifically, the clips from Malcolm X are cut to Miles Davis' solo while the clips from Opening Night are cut to John Coltrane's. I also took a concentrated approach to each section (in a way, this is an omnibus of two montages rather than just one). With Lee, I focused on four of his directorial approaches - movement, performance, cutting, and framing - while adhering to the structure of the film itself, which follows Malcolm through at least four distinct stages in his life. With Rowlands, I moved from distanced wide shots to extreme close-ups over the course of the montage, echoing the way in which her raw performances draw us closer and closer to the characters she is playing. While I think the video works simply as a straightforward film clip montage, it's also one of the most intensely structured videos I've created.

It opens and closes with a larger tribute to the Honorary Oscars and what they stand for, using Charlie Chaplin's moving acceptance speech from 1972 and a still-shot montage of all the honorees from recent years whom we didn't get to see on the television. As it says in the end, this video is dedicated to "the real winners." It's good to keep that in mind despite all the passing hype that surrounds this event.

For some reason, the YouTube video (even when set to 1080 or 720) is noticeably lower-resolution than the Vimeo version, even though both used the same file. So I'd recommend anyone who likes the montage share the Vimeo link instead.

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