oscars 2017

NYFA Looks Forward to the 2017 Oscars

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The Academy Awards has finally unveiled their exciting list of nominees. Much like every year, a mix of expected and surprising nominations have breathed an air of excitement into the industry in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. Here’s what you need to know:

Two NYFA Students Are Academy Award Nominees

 

NYFA alumnus Jean de Meuron was executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated short film, “La femme et le TGV.” The film, directed by Timo von Gunten and starring César Award nominee Jane Birkin, is a tale about a lonely woman who, through poetic and thoughtful letters, connects and builds a close relationship with a TGV train driver that passes her house at 190 mph every single day. As the two anonymous souls share their worlds by writing to each other, one fateful day the train does not pass her house, leading her to embark on a journey away from the place she calls home in search of that lost connection.

In a nonfiction category, NYFA alumna Raphaela Neihausen is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. Raphaela Neihausen, along with Kahane Cooperman, is nominated for “Joe’s Violin.” The film’s website describes the documentary as follows: “A Holocaust survivor donates his violin to a local instrument drive, changing the life of a schoolgirl from the nation’s poorest congressional district.” Ms. Neilhausen is also a NYFA partner in Stranger Than Fiction series at IFC and will be joining NYFA as a master class instructor after the Oscars.

NYFA Guest Speakers’ Work Nominated for Best Animated Feature

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This year, NYFA was honored to welcome two Disney animators as guest speakers, who have now had their work nominated in the Oscar’s Best Animated Feature category.

Disney animators and NYFA Guest Speakers Eric Goldberg and Darrin Butters visited NYFA for two separate Guest Speaker Series events. Mr. Goldberg offered NYFA students a behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s Oscar-nominated “Moana.” And Darrin Butters also hosted an exclusive screening for NYFA students, offering them a preview of Oscar-nominated “Zootopia.”

“La La Land” Makes History

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One film you can expect to win big this year is the highly acclaimed “La La Land.” It goes into the awards with a whopping 14 nominations, tying the record held by both “Titanic” (1997) and “All About Eve” (1950). If it manages to win 11 of those, it would tie the record for most wins alongside “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003) and “Ben Hur” (1959).

If that weren’t enough, “La La Land” also earned the honor of being the first musical with original story and music to be nominated for best picture since 1979’s “All That Jazz.” In fact, the only other film like them to get nominated was “Anchors Aweigh” (1945). Mildred Iatrou Morgan and Ai-Ling Lee also became the first female duo to be nominated for their sound editing work.

Are you interested in movie musicals? NYFA is the only school in the world offering musical theatre students the chance to perform in fully produced musical films. Learn more about our program.

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NYFA would also like to congratulate documentary alumni Susi Dollnig and Nina Thomas, who recently worked with GQ to provide a behind-the-scenes video with “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling at a photoshoot at the Gellért Thermal Bath in Budapest. Both Susi Dollnig and Nina Thomas work at the post-production company House of Trim, which provided the post-production for the video. Dollnig was the colorist and Thomas was the assistant editor.

No #OscarsSoWhite This Year

The 2017 Academy Awards is already being praised for offering the most diverse list of nominees in its history. A total of seven actors of color were nominated — six black and one Indian. This is a stark contrast from the previous two Oscars, where all major acting categories were 100 percent white. This year’s nominees include:

  • Denzel Washington for “Fences” (Best Actor)
  • Ruth Negga for “Loving” (Best Actress)
  • Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Viola Davis for “Fences” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” (Best Supporting Actress)
  • Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” (Best Supporting Actor)
  • Indian actor Dev Patel for “Lion” (Best Supporting Actor)

“Moonlight” has received eight Oscar nominations, while “Fences” has received four.

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NYFA recently had the pleasure of welcoming “Fences” actor Russell Hornsby as a guest speaker and special workshop instructor. Read more about Mr. Hornsby’s NYFA visit to NYFA.

The Most-nominated Performer Returns

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For most in the movie industry, getting one Oscar nomination in their lifetime would be a dream come true. That dream came true for Meryl Streep when “The Deer Hunter” (1978) earned her her first acting nomination. Yet Streep went on to make history: Fast forward a few decades and Streep’s unquestionable talent has made her the most-nominated performer. Her 20th nomination is for her role as the titular character in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016).

Streep won her first Oscar for best supporting actress in “Kramer vs. Kramer” and second for best actress in 1983’s “Sophie’s Choice.” Her third win for best actress in “The Iron Lady” (2011) made her the fifth actor in history to win three Academy Awards.

More Significant Firsts

Even before the show begins, there are a handful of new countries that are already proud to see one of their own as a nominee for the first time at this year’s Oscars. 2015’s “Tanna” is the first Australian-Vanuatuan film to be nominated for best foreign film. The film depicts the actual story of a couple who, much like the classic “Romeo and Juliet,” fall in love with each other instead of obeying their parent’s arrangements.

Black women who work behind the scenes can also gain inspiration from Joi McMillon. Her editing work on “Moonlight” makes her the first African-American woman to be nominated for the category.

Other Interesting Facts

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  • The last fully animated film to be nominated in the visual effects category was 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” This year, animated films make a triumphant return thanks to “Kubo and the Two Strings” being nominated.
  • “O.J.: Made in America” makes history by receiving a nomination for best documentary. It’s running time of seven hours and 47 minutes earns it the honor of the longest film to get nominated.
  • Damien Chazelle, who is only 32, has the chance to become the youngest director to win best director this year. He’s also the second youngest to get nominated in this category — the first is John Singleton, who was nominated for “Boyz n the Hood” at the ripe age of 24.
  • In the past, only two people had ever been simultaneously nominated in the categories of best picture, acting, and writing. That changes this year, when Matt Damon becomes the third. He is nominated for those categories for his work on “Manchester by the Sea.”

NYFA would like to offer congratulations to our animation alumna Alexandra LoRusso, who worked on the visual FX for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which is nominated for an Oscar in the Best Costume Design category.

Which Oscar nominations are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!

“La La Land”: NYFA Examines What Makes a Movie Musical Work

The New York Film Academy is the only school currently offering students the opportunity to perform in an original, fully produced movie musical (check out the write-up on our movie musicals in The Huffington Post). And as reported recently by Broadwayworld.com, NYFA’s movie musicals frequently feature collaborations with Broadway and industry professionals. Which is why we find it both exciting and important to help our community better understand the success of recent Award-season darling “La La Land.” What makes a movie musical so successful, and what can our students learn from this moment?

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash,” was the dark horse of 2016 films. It started off as a limited release, yet by Christmas it was in theaters nationwide. Despite its quiet start, the movie musical has gained traction quickly in the industry.

The jazz-themed musical, featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, took the industry by surprise when it secured seven Golden Globes at the beginning of January. With the Oscars a little less than a month away, Chazelle’s sophomore debut has received 14 Oscar nominations, with two songs from “La La Land” taking spots for original songs:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role
  • Actress in a Leading Role
  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Directing
  • Film Editing
  • Music
  • Music (Original Song)
  • Production Design
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)

Prior to “La La Land,” only two movies in history have secured 14 Oscar nominations – “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997).  “Mary Poppins” (1964), a beloved classic movie musical, received 13 Oscar nominations but it didn’t win Best Picture.

So, to the question burning on all of our minds:

What makes this movie musical successful?

Compared to its fellow Oscar contenders, “La La Land” isn’t a hearty drama nor does it touch on serious issues. Chazelle’s romantic musical, set in Los Angeles, doesn’t immerse its audience into bouts of depression or isolation. Instead, “La La Land” revolves around two attractive people chasing their dreams and at its core exists a romantic comedy — the type of movie that rarely wins Oscars, but that tells a very human story in a directly relatable (if somewhat more glamorous) way.

For a movie musical to succeed, the performances must rivet and move the audience. “La La Land” succeeds at this, unconventionally — for while both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are strong actors, neither are experienced in singing and dancing. Nevertheless, audiences and critics alike have agreed that their performances do what matters most: captivate. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote in her review of “La La Land”: “They have the unforced grace of natural performers, lending an offhand rakishness to every step they take.”

So how can students build their own captivating performances in movie musicals? Here at the New York Film Academy, we believe it’s important that every student in our Musical Theater program receives the highest level of training in professional skills as triple threat performers under the guidance of Broadway-level faculty. In the quest to build a powerful performance, professionals must have a full arsenal of tools to draw upon. NYFA musical theatre instructors have toured in various Broadway and touring productions, regional theaters, opera, movie musicals and television shows. They can offer students real-world training that will prepare students to offer their best possible performance.

What makes “La La Land” different than other romantic comedies?

Unlike most romantic comedies to hit the market today, the two main characters don’t get drunk, have a one-night stand and move on with their lives. Instead, Chazelle uses the first act of the movie to establish the main characters’ individual careers and passions. The dynamics between Mia and Sebastian are effortless. Instead of forcing the characters to be dependent on each other to move the film forward, it allows the audience to bond with both characters on a personal level before the characters become fully entwined. These fully fleshed, individualized characters are what propels the story. And it is the attention to the individual details in the characters that allow Stone and Gosling to shine.

Musical theatre students at NYFA get to experience this careful, deliberate level of individual characterization in the most spectacular way: their roles in original movie musicals are specially written for them. Like Stone and Gosling in “La La Land,” NYFA musical theatre students get the benefit of performing in roles that are tailored to their individuality.

Another factor in the success of “La La Land” is the way the film pays loving homage to movie musicals before it, perfectly balancing affection with clever innovation. The movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it gives nods to movie musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Grease,” “Sweet Charity,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Shall We Dance,” achieving an intoxicating blend of freshness and nostalgia for the audience. This knowledge of and ability to build upon the musical theatre canon is a strength one that we firmly believe in teaching at NYFA, where students not only gain training and experience in performing classic musical theatre pieces, but are able to experience Broadway productions from their base in New York City.

Chazelle didn’t set out to deliver a movie focused on serious issues, which would more than likely cloud the plot of the movie. What he set out to do was create two relatable characters reminiscent of earlier movie musicals meant to break the monotony of super heroes and far-fetched action movies dominating today’s film industry. And it worked. Amazingly well.

Start your own movie musical adventure today with the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre School.