“How could there be no film center in the global center of film?”
That was a question Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos had when he first moved to Los Angeles in the late 1990s and discovered that the entertainment capital of the world was sorely lacking, in his words, “a place to dive deeper, to learn more, to fully immerse myself in the stories behind the movies.” After more than 15 years of development, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is finally poised to open this fall and become the world’s premier museum dedicated to the art and science of movies.
Today, /Film attended a virtual tour of the new facility and learned about the programs and exhibitions its executives and programmers have planned. Read on for everything you need to know about the highly anticipated museum.
In today’s presentation, Oscar winner Laura Dern narrated a virtual tour of the 300,000 square foot, two-building campus connected by glass bridges and located in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles. There will be a myriad of galleries and exhibitions on display when the museum opens for in-person attendance on September 30, 2021, but surprisingly, it sounds like the museum is not interested in only presenting a squeaky-clean image to the world. Dern mentioned multiple times that various areas and installations will specifically address “less proud moments in the histories of the Academy and the film industry.” There’s a gallery called Identity which explores “examples of how hair and makeup have been used to perpetuate racial stereotypes in the movies,” another area which delves into “some of animation’s most troubling histories, including depictions of harmful racial stereotypes and the objectification of female characters,” and, in a two-gallery experience devoted to the Academy Awards, the museum “will not shy away from problematic histories, including OscarsSoWhite, the lack of female representation, and Hattie McDaniel‘s mistreatment at the Oscars ceremony.”
The museum’s core exhibition is called Stories of Cinema and will be a three-floor exhibition “that explores the celebratory, complex, diverse, and international stories of the people that make motion pictures and the films they create.” This will be a dynamic, ever-changing exhibition, but when the museum opens, it will begin with an introductory corridor with floor-to-ceiling projections teasing the films that will be highlighted in the rooms beyond. Then guests will see six vignettes devoted to specific movies and movie artists: Citizen Kane (the actual Rosebud sled will be on display), Real Women Have Curves, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Bruce Lee, cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, and pioneering Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.
There will be a series of galleries called The Art of Moviemaking which “kick off with director’s inspiration, a space co-curated with the directors themselves.” First up will be a collaboration with Spike Lee, who seems to be transporting a significant portion of his collection from Brooklyn to Los Angeles for this experience. “My collection is a sneak peek into my loves, my influences, and it’s for the whole world to see,” he said in a video message.
There’s a gallery devoted to the creation of a single film, focusing on the mechanics and creation of story and taking “a deep dive into the collaborative process of moviemaking.” The opening film will be The Wizard of Oz, and visitors will learn “about the film’s many contributors, from executives to special effects artists, cinematographers, to costume designers, and more.”
There will also be a gallery devoted to casting and performance that will feature screen tests, audition tapes, and casting cards from people like Henry Thomas, Taraji P. Henson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hilary Swank, and more. A sound-themed gallery will showcase a short film made at Skywalker Sound that “breaks down key components and layers of sound design in Raiders of the Lost Ark.” And speaking of sound, Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt has created an original cylindrical installation devoted to the evolution of space in the movies that’s described as “a dynamic 320 degree experience.”
Composers will be represented as well, with a sound chamber devoted to the work of a single composer at a time. Starting things off will be Hildur Guðnadóttir, who won an Oscar for her score for Joker. You’ll be able to hear clips from her scores, as well as new music created specifically for this space.
On the third floor, the Stories of Cinema exhibition starts with an installation space that will be co-curated with a revolving roster of international film artists. Pedro Almodovar is responsible for the opening installation, which “features twelve screens highlighting themes frequently found in his films: musicals, religion, melodrama, and mothers, just to name a few.”
There’s an effects gallery which will focus on the influence of Ray Harryhousen and Willis O’Brien, the significance of movies like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, and more, as well as an “Encounters” gallery populated with original set pieces, costumes, and characters from sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films.
And as we’ve previously covered, the Academy Museum will be the home of the first North American retrospective on Hayao Miyazaki. Visit the Academy’s website for more information.
Pre-Programming and Inaugural Programming
There will also be several pre-opening virtual programs that will begin just days before this year’s Oscars ceremony. On April 22, the Academy Museum’s website will host Breaking the Oscars Ceiling, “a conversation hosted by Academy Museum trustee Diane von Furstenberg and moderated by the Academy Museum’s Jacqueline Stewart, who will be speaking with women who achieved historic Oscars milestones. Guests include actor Sophia Loren, actor and comedian Whoopi Goldberg, actor Marlee Matlin, and singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.”
Additional virtual programs will include the following (although no specific dates or times have been rolled out yet):
- Pariah (2011), the cast and crew of this groundbreaking fiction debut of writer/director Dee Rees reunite to discuss the conception, production, and impact of this coming-of-age story.
- Y tu mamá también (2001), a celebration of the creative partnership between three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and four-time Oscar-winning writer-director Alfonso Cuaron (this event will be in Spanish with English subtitles).
- Spike Lee, a virtual conversation with the trailblazing writer-director, exploring how Lee’s vast personal collection represents his many cinematic muses in the museum’s Director’s Inspiration gallery.
- Hildur Guðnadóttir, a virtual conversation between the Oscar-winning musician and composer (Joker, 2019) and Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jenny He, discussing Guðnadóttir’s work and her approach to designing the museum’s Composer’s Inspiration gallery.
- Activism and Film, an in-depth conversation on the intersections between filmmaking and social change featuring drop-in guests and previewing the Academy Museum’s Impact/Reflection gallery.
- How to Use Film as a Teaching Tool to Have Difficult Conversations, a series of workshops for educators and caregivers.
- The Work of Black VFX Artists , celebrating the accomplishments of six visual effects professionals in a candid discussion about perseverance and the shared experiences of Black film artists in the industry. Offering unprecedented access into their creative process via break-out sessions with visual effects professionals Lyndon Barrois, Lauren Ellis, Audrea Topps-Harjo, Greg Anderson, Andrew Roberts, and Corey Turner.
- Hayao Miyazaki Family Day, introducing families to the world of Hayao Miyazaki’s films through a day of events including art-making workshops and live performances. Academy Museum family day programs are made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
The virtual screenings themselves will only be available in the United States at this time, but the subsequent conversations will be available to access from anywhere in the world.
When the museum finally opens its doors, guests will be able to engage with film series that celebrate a wide selection of cinematic perspectives, including:
- Branch Selects, selected by each of the Academy’s 17 branches that represent meaningful breakthroughs in the evolution of their craft.
- Exhibition-inspired series expanding on the themes, films, and filmmakers in the museum’s galleries. For the museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, the museum will present all of Miyazaki’s features in both Japanese with English subtitles and with English dubbing, as well as additional series exploring the worlds, ideas and stories created by this master filmmaker.
- Oscar Sundays, screenings of Oscar-nominated and -winning films, as well as a behind the scenes look inside the Academy and the Academy Awards.
- Filmmakers’ Inspiration, expanding upon the gallery spaces curated by film artists Pedro Almodóvar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Spike Lee with films they select highlighting their own works and films that have influenced them.
- Preservation Spotlights, showcasing recently preserved films from archives around the world
- Retrospectives offering expansive surveys of a filmmaker’s body of work. Our inaugural year will include retrospectives on a range of film artists from Indian writer/director Satyajit Ray, Ethiopian-born writer/director/teacher Haile Gerima, Austrian exiles who helped shape much of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and actress and icon Anna May Wong.
- Shorts in the Geffen, daily screenings celebrating the creativity of short-form filmmaking—live-action, documentary, and animated—in the David Geffen Theater during regular museum hours.
The museum will also present conversations, panels, symposia, and lectures several times a month in its theaters, such as:
- Legacy, inviting family members of Hollywood legends to discuss the legacy of film artists and provide first-hand insights into film history.
- Impact/Reflection, featuring film artists in conversation with scholars and activists about the relationship between documentary and narrative film and topics presented in the museum’s Impact/Reflection galleries in Stories of Cinema, such as #MeToo, pay equity, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and labor relations.
- The Arts and Sciences of Cinema, providing information and context about breakthrough scientific and technical achievements in filmmaking, featuring figures who have made major contributions to their fields.
- In Conversation Series, with profiles of film artists, celebrations of the anniversaries of significant films, discussions in which film artists speak with people who have been their inspirations and influences, and more.
- Contextualizing Cinema, where Academy members and scholars unpack challenging topics in film history—such as racialized makeup, degrading depictions of Indigenous peoples, and racism in animation—with the aim of increasing empathy and knowledge.
- Object Acquisitions, inviting audiences to follow the journey into the Academy Museum of iconic objects such as the “Bruce the Shark” model from Jaws (1975) and the ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
- Hayao Miyazaki, linked to the Academy Museum’s first temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, unpacking themes in his films including environmentalism, female empowerment, post-war society, and Japanese spirituality and culture.
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