Anne Richardson

Category: Harry Smith

Harry + Homer: Mid Century Oregon Genius @ Hollywood Theatre/Jan. 16 & 17

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 On Friday Jan. 16 and Saturday Jan. 17, 2015, the Mid Century Oregon Genius series returns to the Hollywood Theatre to celebrate Harry Smith (1923-1991) and Homer Groening (1919-1996).

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Harry Smith was born in Portland. He grew up in Bellingham, Washington, a second generation black sheep whose paternal grandmother was a member of the most powerful family in town, the Deming family, whose Pacific American Fisheries had more than 30 canneries in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. An artist from childhood, he began making abstract animated films in San Francisco as an extension of his painting.

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This screen shot of Oregon Cartoon Institute’s 2013 screening of Heaven And Earth Magic at the Hollywood Theatre was taken by Paul Wolfe.

On Jan. 16, 2015 at 7:00 PM, film historian Dennis Nyback will return to the Hollywood with his multi-projector recreation of Harry Smith’s 1962 expanded cinema masterpiece HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC. Using meticulous cut out animation and a sound track composed entirely of sound effects, Smith tells an eerie, austere story of a woman, a toothache and a watermelon.

After HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC, Mississippi Records owner Eric Isaacson and Harry Smith historian Chuck Pirtle will join Dennis Nyback onstage to discuss Harry Smith’s dual identities as collector and artist, and to explore the connection between collecting and creating.

Homer Groening, Harry Smith’s generational cohort, grew up in Albany, Oregon, and spent his entire adult life in Portland. He opened his own advertising agency in 1958, and began making award winning short art films on the side in the early 1960s.

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On Jan. 17, 2015 at 7:00 PM, Mid Century Oregon Genius will present a program of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening. Two time Oscar nominee Bill Plympton will introduce. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Lisa Groening. She will discuss her father with three people who knew him as friend, colleague and role model: Tom Shrader, Ted Mahar, and Bill Plympton.

Thank you to the Groening family for their generous loan of films for this program!

Strange but true: although their lives and career paths diverge in every other way, Harry Smith and Homer Groening were both, in the early 1960s, making non narrative experimental films. A STUDY IN WET, by Homer Groening, uses a sound track composed of found sounds of water dripping, just as the score for Harry Smith’s stop motion animated feature, HEAVEN AND EARTH MAGIC, is composed entirely of sounds taken from one (1) sound effects record.

Just as Harry Smith appropriated images from 19th century mail order catalogs to populate his dream landscape, in A STUDY IN WET, Homer Groening turns an ordinary object, his surfboard, into Japanese calligraphy.

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Harry Smith and Homer Groening are a study in contrasts. One similarity: Both remained independent artists who chose their own projects, and reaped their own rewards. Since this was true for  James Blue and James Ivory, the other two filmmakers celebrated in Mid Century Oregon Genius,  it appears the independent writer-director-producer is, like wine, beer, salmon, stripping, and rain, a regional specialty.

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Posters and video by Josh Winsor. Thank you, Josh.

Tickets for the Jan. 16 screening of Harry Smith’s Heaven And Earth Magic and the Jan. 17 screening of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening are available at www.hollywood.org.

See you there!

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Mid Century Oregon Genius is supported by grants from Kinsman Foundation and Miller Foundation, and is fiscally sponsored by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission.

The Jan. 17 screening of Selected Short Films Of Homer Groening is co-sponsored by MovieMaker Magazine.

James + James: Mid Century Oregon Genius @ Hollywood Theatre/Oct. 10 & 11

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When Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner won their Oscar in 1975, independent filmmaking in Oregon seemed to be entering a new stage. But the truth is that Oregon already had produced four successful independent filmmakers: James Ivory (b. 1928), James Blue (1930-1980), Harry Smith (1923-1991) and Homer Groening (1919-1996). All four artists had emerged a decade before Vinton and Gardiner made their breakthrough film.

Ivory made his cinematic debut from India.

Blue made his from Algeria.

Smith made his from New York City.

Groening remained in Portland, splitting his time between his advertising work and his short art films, which he sent to film festivals around the world.

In the Mid Century Oregon Genius screening series, we unite these four Oregon mid-century film artists under one umbrella. One film is shot in an Algerian war zone. One stars a Hollywood heart throb. One is shot on an animation stand which doubled as a bed for the filmmaker. Some are shot underwater.

On Oct. 10 at 7:00 PM, three time Oscar nominee James Ivory comes to Portland to introduce MAURICE (1987), starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves. Handpicked by Ivory for the screening series, MAURICE is on the short list of films for which he served as both screenwriter (with Kit Hesketh-Harvey) and director.

James Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1951.

On Oct. 11 at 11:00 AM at the Hollywood, we will screen James Ivory’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A PRINCESS (1977), starring Madhur Jaffrey and James Mason. Ivory chose AUTOBIOGRAPHY specifically to complement James Blue’s THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE, which shares its theme of post colonial identity crisis.

On Oct. 11 at 1:00 PM, Richard Blue, the brother of director James Blue, will introduce THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE, an extremely rare film which won the Critics Prize at Cannes in 1962.

James Blue grew up in Portland and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1953. He and James Ivory worked together on at least one drama production at UO. Did they have any idea they would become Oregon’s first Oscar nominated directors?

And that they both would launch careers from outside this country?

On Oct. 11 at 2:30 PM, following the screening of THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE, there will be a panel discussion titled  James Blue, a life in conversation.

Three panelists will talk us through James Blue’s life and career. Using archival photos from the Blue Collection to structure the narrative, we will travel conversationally from Tulsa to Portland, Eugene, and Paris, to Blue’s professional breakthrough in Algiers, his subsequent embrace of documentary, and his dual identity as filmmaker and educator.

The panelists are Richard Blue, the brother of James Blue; James Dormeyer, Blue’s classmate at L’Institut des hautes études cinématographiques in Paris and a close friend; Gill Dennis, the screenwriter of Blue’s 1969 Oscar nominated doc, A FEW NOTES ON OUR FOOD PROBLEM.

Tickets for individual events, and for the entire series, will be available online through The Hollywood Theatre and at the door.

The Mid Century Oregon Genius screening of The Olive Trees Of Justice is co-sponsored by The James and Richard Blue Foundation.

The second half of the Mid Century Oregon Genius screening series will take place on January 15 & 16, 2015. Two back to back evenings will celebrate the work of independent filmmakers Harry Smith and Homer Groening.

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More information: http://midcenturyoregongenius.wordpress.com

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The Mid Century Oregon Genius screening series is supported by grants from Kinsman Foundation and Miller Foundation. It is presented by Oregon Movies, A to Z, which is fiscally sponsored by Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, a 501 © 3 private non profit organization.