Academy Museum Unveils Inaugural Exhibits: ‘Wizard Of Oz’, Miyazaki, Black Cinema & More

Academy Museum

When it opens its doors late next year, the $388 million Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will feature exhibits designed to capture the interest of movie fans and historians alike, making it “the first institution of its scope and scale devoted to the past, present, and future of cinema,” the Museum said today in announcing its plans for the opening.

“The Museum’s exhibitions are as expansive and imaginative as the movies we love,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a release distributed during a luncheon today at the Petersen Automotive Museum across Wilshire Boulevard from the construction stie. “With its piazza and open spaces, the Museum will be a gathering place for film lovers and will invite people from all over the world to re-experience and deepen our collective love of this art form, accessible to all.”

A long-term exhibit, tentatively titled “Where Dreams Are Made: A Journey Inside the Movies,” will occupy two floors of the Museum’s Saban Building – formerly known as the May Company building – to explore the development of the art and science of motion pictures.

Kerry Brougher, the Museum’s director, also revealed that it will open with a temporary exhibit celebrating the work of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, presented in collaboration with his Studio Ghibli – marking the first major exhibition of his work presented in the United States. This exhibition will be followed by “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900–1970” in the fall of 2020). It’s being billed as “a groundbreaking exhibition that reveals the important and under-recognized history of African-American filmmakers in the development of American cinema.” It will explore African-American representation in the motion picture from its advent to just beyond the Civil Rights era.

The Museum’s 34-foot-high project space will open with a major work by the Tokyo-based interdisciplinary art collective teamLab. Additional exhibitions will include “Making of: The Wizard of Oz,” featuring elements that contributed to the creation of this iconic film, along with a history of the Academy Awards and an Oscars experience. The Spielberg Family Gallery, located in the Grand Lobby, will house “Making of: The Wizard of Oz” and will include as its centerpiece a pair of Dorothy’s famed ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the iconic film.

The Wanda Gallery on the second floor will house the Lumière and Méliès gallery, which will introduce visitors to a central theme of the exhibition – the interplay in cinema between realism and fantasy – as seen in the work of the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière, and Georges Méliès. Here, visitors will experience some of the earliest films ever projected, brief glimpses of daily life that were the forerunners of today’s documentaries and travelogues with which the Lumière brothers astonished audiences all over the world. The “trick” films and dazzling moving image fantasies of stage-magician-turned-filmmaker Méliès prefigured the potential of cinematic imagination even as the medium was still in its infancy.

The Story Films gallery inside the restored iconic golden cylinder of the Saban Building will show how filmmakers around the world quickly developed camera and editing techniques that unleashed this new medium’s potential to tell stories. Visitors will see examples of the first dramas, comedies, adventures, and other genres created for the screen, as well as the first animated short films. Women played significant roles both in front of and behind the camera during this period, and this gallery’s focus on early pioneers such as Alice Guy-Blaché and Lois Weber will not only explore their stories but also survey an industry in the process of being born.

Visitors then will enter a maze of monumental screens in the Light and Shadow gallery, which features sequences from the heyday of international silent film, revealing how inventive production design, acting styles, cinematographic effects, and lighting techniques brought mood, atmosphere, and emotion to cinema, elevating it to an art form and entrancing audiences around the world.

In the Modern Times section, visitors will encounter three simultaneous moments in cinema history that demonstrate moviemakers’ ability to respond to and impact society. The first was the rise of Hollywood and powerful stars like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, who often created identifiable, sympathetic representations of the “everyman.” The second was the artistic and political eruption of Soviet cinema, particularly advances in editing and montage pioneered by Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, who used innovative approaches to capture the drama of daily life. The third was the development of independent filmmaking in America, which sought to counter the stereotypes often created by Hollywood, including films starring all-Black casts, predominantly distributed to Black audiences, known as “race films” – and production companies formed by such notable filmmakers as Oscar Micheaux, Sessue Hayakawa, and Beatriz Michelena.

Modern Times leads visitors to the largest of the second-floor galleries, The Studio System, which follows the bustle of the Hollywood assembly line from the advent of synchronized talking pictures in 1927 to the decline of the studio system in the 1960s. This gallery explores the “dream” of Hollywood spectacle and the “factory” that made it possible. Here, objects from the Academy’s collection, such as a backdrop from Singin’ in the Rain (1952), the doors to Rick’s Café Américain from Casablanca (1942), and the typewriter used to write Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), as well as familiar faces and scenes from the movies themselves, will bring to life the myriad people and departments that came together to create studio movies of the time. Visitors will journey through the studio to explore the artistry and also the challenges of Hollywood during its “golden age.”

This gallery also highlights many of the era’s most unforgettable stars, from the dancing talents of Fred Astaire, the Nicholas Brothers and Rita Moreno to the dramatic presence of Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck and Sidney Poitier and icons of the screen such as  Greta Garbo, Dolores del Rio and Marilyn Monroe.

As visitors move to the Museum’s third-floor Rolex Gallery, they will enter into the Real World. This space reveals how filmmakers responded to the tensions and challenges of a world changed by World War II. As filmmaking techniques became increasingly adaptable, with lighter-weight and more widely available equipment, filmmakers everywhere took to the streets to capture their version of reality and share slices of life on screen. Whether creating fiction films or documentaries, they helped record and shape our history.

Here, visitors will also encounter the rapid growth of independent cinema and the individual expression that characterized movements from Italian Neorealism and French New Wave to Indian Parallel Cinema and Brazilian Cinema Novo. But this is not only a story of the past: such approaches continue to impact and influence filmmaking to the present day.

An homage to the Stargate Corridor sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – a sequence that brought together experimental film techniques and mainstream cinema – creates a mind-bending passageway to the final section of the exhibition: “Imaginary World.” Here, visitors will be transported to unfamiliar worlds of the past, present, and future to encounter many of the most memorable and beloved movie characters, creatures, and destinations and to hear from the filmmakers themselves how they have pushed the boundaries of filmmaking to make the impossible possible. These films, despite their imagined lands and inhabitants, often provide a mirror that urges us look at ourselves and our own world in new ways.

And of course, the museum will delve into the history of the Oscars, which have been the ultimate recognition of moviemaking excellence since 1929. Originally a dinner for industry insiders only, the ceremony has gradually become a global phenomenon watched by millions around the world. Visitors can trace the rich history of the Academy Awards and the story of the Oscar in an exhibition that includes favorite highlights, memorable winners’ speeches, private backstage moments, and rarely seen materials from the Academy’s collection. The exhibition will look back at the show, its glamour as well as its controversies, and the ways in which the Academy Awards ceremony has evolved and been a mirror of our culture. Visitors will then enter a gallery that allows visitors to have their own photo opportunity and Oscar moment.

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