Trying for an edgier, hipper vibe, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences enlisted young whippersnappers James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host last year’s Academy Awards. They were likely hoping that Franco would jump into his co-hosting duties with the same gusto as his Best Actor-nominated character in 127 Hours. Instead he “treated the Oscars like his own avant-garde conceptual art project, like the way he went on ‘General Hospital’ for kicks and giggles,” as Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield put it.
The seven minute Protopartículas (Protoparticles) is one of the short, experimental films from around the world showing at The Bridge/PAI on Thursday. (Photo courtesy The Bridge/PAI)
This year the Academy isn’t risking a repeat of what Roger Ebert deemed “the worst Oscar cast I’ve seen.” When the curtain rises on this Sunday’s Oscars, they’ll turn to the tried-and-true Billy Crystal, who will be hosting the ceremony for the ninth time.
The Academy may have decided to give up on today’s youth and the avant-garde, but we are keeping the faith. That’s why we’ve decided to highlight a couple of local events happening this week that can serve as great alternatives to Mr. Crystal and those little gold-plated statuettes.
First up is The Bridge/PAI’s film series, which has been offering local experimental film junkies a steady fix since 2006. The series’ reputation made it all the way to the folks at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, one of the country’s most esteemed showcases for experimental film. They approached The Bridge about hosting one of the festival’s traveling programs, which will bring 80 minutes of film shorts from around the world to town this Thursday.
“Our showings over the past five years have tended to focus on trolling the rich history of experimental film with a few bits of contemporary experimental film caught in the net,” film series director Jordan Taylor told us. “We think this collection will be a great way for students, artists, and community members to see how currently working filmmakers are recasting the world.”
The program is one of The Bridge’s many upcoming film events, including a March 15 showcase of work by avant-garde pioneers Robert Breer and Jordan Belson, who both died last year. Taylor told us he is also particularly excited for the April 17 return of Flicker Poetry, a special showcase bringing together poetry and experimental film. “We are working with Lindsay Turner and local writers to come up with a nice mix of local poets, and the films should be another great collection of the rarely-if-ever seen films associated with the Beats, New York school, language poetry, and maybe even a few other odd subcultures thrown in to boot,” said Taylor. Also on the horizon are Cine de Noche, a bi-weekly Spanish-language film series starting in March that aims to foster bilingual discussion and exchange, and a showcase of experimental shorts created by students at Light House Studio in May.
Speaking of Light House, while Hollywood dons tuxedos and gowns and heads to the Kodak Theatre on Sunday, the local youth film organization will roll out its own red carpet at The Southern. High school and middle school students who participated in the studio’s inaugural music video workshop last summer will be premiering the videos that they created in collaboration with Borrowed Beams of Light, Downbeat Project and former Feedback columnist Andrew Cedermark.
Borrowed Beams’ Adam Brock, who is also a mentor at Light House and appears in the video for his instrumental surf number “Hang 1000,” told us about the experience. “The kids bounced ideas off of us and got to really explore things like giving direction,” he said. “Once they had developed their story and storyboarded it and everything, we had a really fun day shooting at the sand volleyball courts near Alderman and Clemons. They developed this cool surf-y crime spoof concept.” In one scene, Brock had to run in place next to a stationary car while two students, dressed as police and donning fake mustaches, shouted at him and pretended to be in hot pursuit. “The passersby loved that,” Brock said.
Sunday’s premiere will also feature live performances by Borrowed Beams, Downbeat Project, and The Fire Tapes, who are slated to participate in Light House’s next music video workshop this summer, as well as special giveaways and ongoing Oscar updates.
If you want the full-fledged Oscars experience, you can head to The Paramount Theater, which is hosting one of only 49 official Oscar Night America viewing parties. You’ll still be supporting local arts, as the event will benefit the Virginia Film Festival, and you’ll get to enjoy a selection of local food and wine, a silent auction of film-related items, a live broadcast of the Oscars on a high-definition screen, and a copy of the official Academy Awards program.
Finally, we’ll leave you with a zinger from Steve Martin: “Hosting the Oscars is much like making love to a woman. It’s something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town.”