Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I’m June Simms.
On our show this week, we listen to music from the Oscar nominated movie, “Les Miserables.”
And we tell about the movies and performers nominated for Academy Awards.
But first we visit a digital work of art near Washington, D.C.
How do you represent yourself online? Who are you when you are out in the real world? How are your two selves connected? And how do they interact with the global nature of the Internet?
These are the kinds of questions that led to the creation of an art installation called “W3FI,” currently on exhibit at the Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia.
Christopher Cruise takes us to the show.
Narrow lines of light streak across the wall. Circles of light float up the wall like bubbles, turning on and off. Lighted images of the faces of visitors are captured in round virtual frames on another wall. Messages about wireless communication activity appear and disappear. And cubes for seating spread light up and go dark, in no immediately recognizable pattern.
The visual experience of the “W3FI” show at Artisphere is enough to make visitors glad they went. It is bright and beautiful.
But, the exhibit also raises interesting questions about the connections among the Internet, the individual, and online society.
"W3FI" exhibit at Artisphere
Digital artists Laleh Mehran and Chris Coleman created the “W3FI” installation. They are both professors at University of Denver in Colorado. The project began at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art where the curator asked for a work that explored the issue of diversity. Chris Coleman says he and Mehran decided to center on technological diversity. He says Boulder is generally high tech. But he says there are also large parts of the city that are disconnected from technology.
“So we wanted to have a little bit of dialogue about that. And we decided to not just have a critical conversation about technology and people’s access to it, as well as the way we’re treating each other in these technological venues, but also to try and navigate and describe a pathway for making that technological space a better place for everyone to exist in.”
“W3FI” is not just an art piece, its creators say on their “W3FI” website. It is also a social movement. The name is a mix of the words “wifi” and “we.”
“Wifi describes the invisible internet network that allows us all to connect to the global marketplace and idea space to W3FI so it’s a space that we’re all collectively existing in. It’s about how we exist together, and how we affect each other and how we shape each other’s lives in this new space.”
The show travelled from Boulder to Santa Fe, New Mexico and then to Rosario, Argentina before it came to Washington. The look of the exhibit changes for each new location, with images of buildings and landscape from the area.
“We re-fashion the entire show because the conversation is about how we’re globally interconnected, but also about how we all have an exchange that’s local and physical as well. The whole goal of the installation is to have you confront your existence in the physical and digital space at the same time.”
Chris Coleman says visitor reactions to the show differed in ways that seemed connected to the place it was in. He says Argentinians provided an especially interesting reception.
“You know, Argentina is a few years behind in the sort of broad acceptance of technology into their lives. So they were asking really pointed questions about whether or not they should be accepting the sort of things that we already take for granted in the US. So that was a very powerful experience for us.”
Chris Coleman says he and Laleh Mehran are in early talks about a possibly “W3FI” exhibit in Taiwan. He says a visit there would be exciting. But mostly he just hopes the show keeps moving.
“I’d love to see it everywhere. It’s an experience that has more power the more people we’re able to share it with.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences surprised no one Thursday when it nominated “Lincoln” for Best Picture. The Civil War film received more Academy Award nominations than any other film released last year.
Academy voters will likely have a difficult time making their choices. There are many excellent movies to choose from -- and some great performances -- in a year that produced more money for Hollywood than any other year.
“Lincoln” received a total of 12 award nominations, including one for best picture. “Life of Pi” was second, with 11 Oscar nominations.
Quvenzhane Wallis as "Hushpuppy" on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Jess Pinkham)
The film “Silver Linings Playbook” -- about a man rebuilding his life after a stay in a mental hospital -- received nominations for best director, best movie and best adapted screenplay. It also was nominated for all four major acting awards.
There were nine other best picture nominees, including “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Amour,” “Argo,” “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained.”
The James Bond movie “Skyfall” received five Oscar nominations. That is more than any other Bond film. But, like every other movie starring the British secret agent over the past 50 years, it was not nominated for “Best Picture.” The second-biggest worldwide ticket seller -- the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” -- did not receive any nominations at all.
The star of “Lincoln” -- Daniel Day-Lewis -- and the star of “Les Miserables” -- Hugh Jackman -- were nominated for the Best Actor award. Also nominated were Denzel Washington for his performance in “Flight,” Bradley Cooper for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Joaquin Phoenix for his work in “The Master.”
Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Actress for her work in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Also nominated were Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Naomi Watts for “The Impossible,” about a family caught in a tsunami. Nine year old Quvenzhane Wallis, of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” was another nominee. She is the youngest person to ever receive an Oscar nomination. “Amour” star, Emmanuelle Riva was nominated for Best Actress. At 85, she is the oldest person ever to be nominated.
The 5,856 voting members of the Academy can start voting February eighth. The 85th Academy Awards will be presented February 24th in Hollywood.
“Les Miserables” Soundtrack
This week the album from the new movie “Les Miserables” went to number two on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart. The recording was just released on December 21st. Some critics are wondering if the fast-rising movie soundtrack will oust Taylor Swift’s album “Red” from the number one position. Faith Lapidus has more on “Les Miserables” and some of its best performances.
The movie is based on a Broadway musical that was, in turn, based on the book “Les Miserables” by the nineteenth century French writer Victor Hugo. The story tells about the troubled lives of several poor, unlucky people.
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
One is Jean Valjean, a criminal hiding his identity from the police as he struggles to become a better person. Hugh Jackman plays Valjean in the movie. Here he performs “The Confrontation” with Russell Crowe, who plays the police inspector seeking Valjean.
Anne Hathaway also stars in “Les Miserables” as the poor, single mother Fantine. Critics strongly praised her acting in the film. But they seemed even more excited by Hathaway singing, especially in this song, “I Dreamed a Dream.”
The songs in the film “Les Miserables” were not pre-recorded as they are in most movie musicals. All the singing was done live on the movie set during filming.
Two actors perform the part of Cosette, Fantine’s daughter. Ten year old Isabelle Allen plays Cosette as a little girl. “Les Miserables” is the young Briton’s first film.
We leave you with Isabelle Allen singing “Castle on a Cloud” from the film “Les Miserables.”