Category: Fr. David Guffey, C.S.C.

Oscar 2015 Observations from Father David

 

 

Outside the Dolby Theater just before the 87th Oscars

Outside the Dolby Theater just before the 87th Oscars

Our Family Theater office is only about 6 blocks from the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards take place.   About 25 film enthusiasts gathered in our screening room to watch the ceremony.  Here are my 8 Award Observations about the 87th Academy Awards:

  • More than beautiful dresses.  On the Red Carpet it seemed that reporters were going deeper than “What are  you wearing?”  asking questions about the films the actors played in, causes that they are passionate about and family.
  • Hollywood gives love to Family.  Perhaps inspired by the speech given by Best Supporting Actor winner JK Simmons, almost every Oscar winner mentioned and thanked their family as important to their creative process and career success.  It seems that being a good parent is something people consider important and a sign of success and status.
  • Bigger than Me.  Many stars used their moment in the spotlight to point to issues bigger than themselves.   Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette  (Boyhood) talked about her developing-world, water project and about equal pay for women.  Eddie Redmayne who won Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in Theory of Everything paid homage to those with ALS and those working to find treatments and a cure.  Jullianne Moore who won Best Actress for Still Alice, also acknowledged those with Alzheimer’s disease.

  • I didn’t see it yet.   This year there were only 8 movies nominated for best picture (out of a potential of 10) and still I found very few people, even among my Hollywood film-buff friends who bothered to see all the films.  I did not find many people rooting for films for Best Picture in part because they did not think their favorite would win even if it had been nominated.   Birdman may have been the darling of the ball (Best Picture, Director and Screenplay), but it was not a great box office draw (only $38 million domestic).
  • What are we going to about the Animation Category?  I have a theory:  I do not think Academy voters really watch the Animated Films either in the nomination process or in the final balloting.  How did The Lego Movie not get nominated and not win best animated picture?  It was a more entertaining film with sophisticated humor that could reach children and adults.   If you did not enjoy The Lego Movie, chances are you did not see it.  Big Hero 6 was fun and touching but it had huge marketing that drove the voting.
  • Hollywood Remembers their Dead.    In the Catholic Tradition we remember the dead in the month of November.   Every year the Oscars have an In Memoriam Segment.  As the month of November falls in the year, so the segment falls near the end of the program.  It was touch to see people and remember the work they had done.

  • A great film released early can still get attention.  Wes Anderson’s quirky comedy Grand Budapest Hotel was released in late March 2014 and yet still was a contender for many awards and took home two statuettes on Sunday.   For marketing reasons, distribut0rs load up the end of the year with their most award worthy films which crowds up the month of November, December and to some extent January.  All of these are holiday times, busy for most people.   People pick and choose the films they can afford to fit in.  Some great films go unseen, even though they generate considerable buzz. Please give some great films in April and May this year.
  • Richard Linklater made film history with Boyhood.  We not only watched a boy grow up over the course of 12 years, but also his parents.  I am often saddened and disturbed by some of the aspects of relationships, marriage and family that Linklater portrays in his films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise) but he really captures a sense of our culture in the times we live.  They are very real.  He points out the struggles but also the joy, wonder and power of love, of reconciliation and of communication.

Hollywood Boulevard is open again the red carpet is rolled up and on its way to storage.  Got any predictions for Oscar 2016 yet?

 

You Tube to Launch a Kids App: Fun for kids, a relief to Parents

imagesWe at Family Theater Productions have  watched the growing demand for family content across almost every media platform.  You Tube is the latest media company to recognize the need  for family content and so the potential for wider audiences.  USA Today reports that You Tube is prepared to launch a kid friendly App on February 23, 2015.

USA Today quoted the project’s group product manager, Shimrit Ben-Yair: “Parents were constantly asking us, can you make YouTube a better place for our kids,”  He further noted that family-friendly fare is a booming business on YouTube. “(Year over year) we’ve seen 50% growth in viewing time on YouTube, but for our family entertainment channels, it’s more like 200%.”YouTube_Kids_Screenshot.0

The App will feature curated content just for small children with filters to keep them from seeing scary or more adult material.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the App will have content from favorites like Thomas the Train and Sesame Street  It reportedly will also allow parents to follow what their children watch and to set timers on the use of the App.  You Tube opens up for itself a new market to the youngest  audience members, getting them while their young to be lifelong users of the site.

Initially the App will only be available  for Android devices, but it is expected that there will be an Apple friendly version available sometime in future.

 

 

God the Artist: Reflections from the Director’s Chair.

Fr. David in the Director's Chair

Fr. David in the Director’s Chair

This month Family Theater Productions released Family Dinner, a short film for teens and families.  At the very same time were filming two more movies and these last weeks I have been directing short films for a project at Family Theater Productions.

When I am on a film set, I appreciate all the more what goes into creating the scripted television shows or films that I watch.   Everything you see and hear has been selected and placed in the frame by professionals.  The people on camera in each scene were selected to serve the story, even the background people who sit at  restaurant tables or pass by on the street.  Assistant Directors instructed them where to move.  The light in each shot has been crafted.  In exterior shots they may use the sun, but block out direct light, or bounce (reflecting) rays off a surface to fill a shadow.  The lighting crew working with the director of photography and the director, paint the scene with light creating night or day, warm or cool environments, shadows and highlights.   Sound and music are added in the post-production process to bring depth and emotion to the visual images.DSC01593

It occurred to me that God is the ultimate artist, the great director, who authors the story of the kingdom unfolding around us.  God has placed each of us in a carefully selected location, a dynamic studio with colors, shapes, natural elements and human creations.  God creates the greatest sets, magnificent cities, sylvan wilderness, seas and prairies.  God is our gaffer (lighting expert) providing the light, sun in the day and stars in the night.  God casts the people who enter my life, all of them: the co-stars, the featured and even the background.  As they play some role in my life, I know that each of them lives out their own arc in the Kingdom of God and that I play some role in their story too.  The hum of the city, the chatter of people, the beat of  songs forms the soundtracks of life.  It is all there by the creation of God for some purpose.  We add to it with the choices we make.

We are cast and crew for the Gospel, called to collaborate by bringing using our talents and energies to serve the story of God.   The great challenge is to discern what our purpose, our role truly is and then live it well.   Come Holy Spirit.

I believe in Providence.  That is the idea that God is actively at work in each of our lives in hard times and in times of comfort and joy.  God is ever advancing the great story of the kingdom of love, truth, beauty, hope and faith.

What story are you living now?  May the Holy Spirit help you discern the roles you are called to play, give you appreciation for the artistry of God around you, and lead you to participate in the great story of the Kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.

 

 

Dolphin Tale 2: Friends and Family Matter on Land and Sea

 

In Theaters Now

In Theaters Now

Dolphin Tale 2 released recently by Warner Brothers was the number two at the box office its opening weekend in September.  I saw the film Saturday afternoon in a theater packed with children, parents and grandparents.  Part of the fun of the film was hearing the giggles and responses of the kids in some parts, but their absolute silence in other scenes of the film.  The film had their attention and deserves it.

It is a family movie, not just in the sense that it has kid actors, animals and “lunge free” viewing (parents do not have to lunge to cover their children’s eyes or ears), the film is about the importance of family and friendships, of letting go and of remaining committed.

The first Dolphin Tale film tells the story of the rescue of Winter, a female dolphin whose tale fin had been cut off after being caught in a crab trap.  Dr. Clay Haskell, played by Harry Connick, Jr., takes the wounded creature to Clearwater Aquarium assisted by his daughter Hazel, Cozy Zuehlsdorff, and her friend, Sawyer, Nathan Gamble.   They pair an older dolphin named Panama with Winter and ultimately fit her with a prosthetic fin invented by Dr. Cameron McCarthy, played by Morgan Freeman.   All based on a true story.

The real Winter is a celebrity at the Clearwater Aquarium drawing many visitors, among them many disabled people.  Her ability to adapt to the prosthetic fin has inspired humans living with loss of limb or faced with physical challenges.

In Dolphin Tale 2, Winter’s dolphin friend Panama dies.  In spite of efforts by Cozy, Sawyer and the staff, Winter is depressed.  They must find a companion dolphin for her or risk her health and also the loss of the aquarium under pressure from the USAD.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Nathan Gamble star of Dolphin Tale 2 interviewed at Family Theater by Fr. Ed Benioff.

Every character in the film seems called to clarity dedication to a purpose greater than themselves and must wrestle with what that means in terms of their life decisions. The staff at the Clearwater Aquarium rescue animals with the idea to return them to the wild as soon as possible.  Though they come to love the sea creatures in their care: they must be able to release them back to the wild.   The staff, including young Sawyer and Hazel, live the struggle of sacrificial love.

At the same time, Sawyer is offered a scholarship to a semester at sea program based in Boston.  Nathan Gamble says about his character, “The last three years at the Aquarium have been so great for him; it’s given him purpose and many friends, so he struggles with whether or not he should go.”  Can he let them go?  Can they let him go off to school so that he can become the person he is called to be?

The cast includes other greats like Ashley Judd and Chris Kristofferson, not to mention a scene stealing pelican and other beautiful sea animals.

All ages can see and enjoy Dolphin Tale 2.  It is wonderfully escapist in the sense that it has little of the cynicism and darkness of so many films today, but it still points to significant life issues that are worth a little reflection with touching moments, beautiful scenes and fun along the way.

“Boyhood” and “When the Game Stands Tall”: Cinema Looks at Boys Growing Up

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It might seem odd to put Richard Linklater’s ground-breaking film Boyhood next to the fairly straightforward inspirational sports film When the Game Stands Tall directed by Thomas Carter, but both from very different perspectives show young men growing up and the mixed roles the adults in their lives play.

When the Game Stands Tall tells the story of Coach Bob Ladouceur and his De La Salle High School power house football team whose winning streak reached to 151 games.   The coach played by Jim Caviezel, repeats over and over that the winning streak is not the most important thing about the program he runs.   A reporter asks him “25 years coaching this team, favored to win your 12th consecutive championship, 150 wins, how’d you pull it off?”  Coach responds, “Winning a lot of games is doable, teaching kids there is more to life, that’s hard.”  Ladouceur creates a culture of pride, of accountability and of love of community in his players by his own example, by his teaching and attentiveness to them.   He is an adult who is present as an adult to the needs of the children entrusted to him as students and players.

 

When watching Boyhood, you keep wishing and hoping that Mason will have this kind of adult in his life.  Linklater’s film chronicles the life of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane from the age of 6 to 18 and was filmed over 12 years with the cast including Ethan Hawke as the boy’s here-and-not-here father and Patricia Arquette as his struggling single mother.   The adults in Mason’s world drag him along as a bystander or baggage on their journey to find themselves.   His father played by Ethan Hawke is the largely absent, cool dad who shows up when he is in town, with gifts and advice and laughs.  Mason observes his hard-working Mother’s romances turn into marriages and implode into alcohol fused disasters.  He lives ever in someone else’s home and without a safe place of his own.  He forms friendships and then is repeatedly torn from them in successive moves.

The adults in his life love him in their own way, but they are not accountable to each other and not to him or his sister Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater).   They parent on their own terms almost as a sideline to the bigger work of finding themselves.  Mason and his sister seem to get in their way at times.  In fact, in several separate cringe-worthy, Mason’s parents tell him that he was “a mistake.”  The words come in the guise of advice to use contraception, “you don’t want to make the same mistake your mom and I did.”

With the little guidance he gets from his family and the force of his own lovely personality, grace works in boy and you see an artist developing from the chaos of life.  After the credits role, you care enough about him to wonder how he will form family and navigate his way to adult life when he has had so few positive role models.   Will Mason find a home?  Is he prepared to create one?

There is no one really who calls him to excellence or to be his best self.  Would that the Mason’s of the world could have one of the Coach Bob Ladouceurs of the world as a mentor to help them believe in the meaning and purpose of life and experience the power of sacrificial love.


Coach Ladouceur gives a locker room speech in which he says that his mission is to help them grow up to be men that others can depend on.   Sadly, Mason in Boyhood, is not alone among teenagers in lacking adults in their lives with such a mission.

 

EWTN, the Global Catholic Television Network, Set to Open West Coast Studio at the new Christ Cathedral in Orange County

EWTN LogowebWe here at Family Theater Productions are excited to hear EWTN is opening a west coast studio at the new Christ Cathedral in Orange County.  EWTN broadcasts Catholic and family programming around the world, through television, radio, and the internet, while inspiring and educating the faithful.

The announcement was made by EWTN Chief Executive Officer, Michael Warsaw and Bishop Kevin Van of the Diocese of Orange at the Napa Institute being held this week.

Christ Cathedral. Photo credit: Diocese of Orange

Christ Cathedral. Photo credit: Diocese of Orange

Christ Cathedral is the formal Crystal Cathedral that was built by Dr. Robert Schuller , the television evangelist who hosted the “Hour of Power”.  After the TV ministry went bankrupt in 2010, the Cathedral was bought by the Diocese of Orange to be turned into a center of Catholic worship and outreach throughout Southern California and beyond.

The new studio will be operational and begin broadcasting news and Masses by the end of 2014.

Michael Warsaw added that the new west coast studio location will be an asset to the development of their programming by giving “EWTN a presence in an area of the country where the Network will be able to execute programs that would be difficult to produce elsewhere, particularly for our Spanish-language channels.”

We welcome EWTN to the west coast and offer them our prayers in this new endeavor.  National Director of Family Theater Productions, Father David Guffey, C.S.C. adds “EWTN has been a long time friend of Family Theater, one of our major broadcast partners who regularly play our TV and film content.  We congratulate EWTN and welcome them to the very rich, sometimes challenging media environment of Southern California.  Our prayers are with them in this new venture.”