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Saturday
Feb192011

Berlinale Closes Pt. 1: Jury Prizes, Teddys, and More

We haven't mentioned the Berlinale at all in the heat of Oscar week. So let's do that, shall we? Better late than never. The festival closes tomorrow but the awards were handed out over the past two days.

"Nader and Simin: A Separation" GOLDEN BEAR

Asghar Fahradi, who got a lot of Oscar buzz a couple years back (though no nomination) for ABOUT ELLY, won this year's Golden Bear for Nader & Simin: A Separation (2011). The Hollywood Reporter explains the film like so.

Farhadi's drama traces the breakup of a Iranian family set against the political tensions in Tehran. While not overtly political, Nader and Simin is starkly critical of conditions in Iran, notably the country's huge class divide. It was widely tipped to win Berlin's top prize, not least because of the current upheaval in the Middle East.

Fahradi dedicated his prize to jailed filmmaker Jafar Panihi who was also supposed to be serving on this very jury. Isabella Rossellini's jury was one short as a result. Rather than replacing him they held a symbolic open seat for him. Some articles are already suggesting that Nader & Simin could be submitted for next year's Foreign Language Film Oscar. But given the open criticisms and the dedication to a jailed filmmaker I wouldn't place your bets just yet; it can be tough to read Oscar submission politics when filmmakers and governments clash.

Competition Jury
Golden Bear: Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin (Nader and Simin, A Separation) by Asghar Farhadi
Silver Bear The Jury Grand Prize
: A Torinoi Lo (The Turin Horse) by Bela Tarr
Silver Bear Best Director
: Ulrich Kohler for Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness)
Silver Bear Best Actress
: the female ensemble in Nader & Simin
Silver Bear Best Actor
: the male ensemble in Nader & Simin
Silver Bear Best Screenplay:
The Forgiveness of Blood written by Joshua Marston and Andamion Murataj.

Isabella and her jury liked Nader & Simin so much they gave it ALL the acting prizes, too. This wasn't good news for Coriolanus, the Shakespearean adaptation from Ralph Fiennes that won Vanessa Redgrave in particular Oscar friendly reviews. Regarding the Screenplay prize: If Marston's name looks familiar think Maria Full of Grace. We were wondering when he was going to be back to the cinema.

Silver Bear Artistic Contribution: Wojciech Staron, Cinematography, and Barbara Enriquez, Production Design, for El Premio
Alfred Bauer Prize: If Not Us Who (Wer Wenn Nicht Wir) by Andres Velel
First Feature Award: On the Ice by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Special Mention: The Guard by John Michael McDonagh
Special Mention: Die Vaterlosen by Marie Kreutzer

Crystal Bear
These prizes are for family films. Separate jury.

Best Kplus Feature Film: Keeper’n til Liverpool (The Liverpool Goalie) by Arild Andresen [Norway]
Special Mention: Mabul by Guy Nattiv [Israel/Canada/Germany/France]
Short Film: Lily by Kasimir Burgess [Australia]
Special Mention:  Minnie Loves Junior by Andy Mullins and Matthew Mullins [Australia]
Best 14plus Feature FilmOn the Ice  by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean [U.S.]
Special Mention: Apflickorna by Lisa Aschan [Sweden]
Best 14plus Short FilmManurewa by Sam Peacocke [New Zealand]
Special MentionGet Real! by Evert de Beijer [Netherlands]

Scandinavia is always winning prizes for family and kids films. It's a niche. Here's the trailer to the winning film. You can tell the "family friendly" categories aren't judged by US prudes. This won the Kplus award, and within seconds of the trailer starting there's jokes about people being well hung and there's shower nudity. Different worlds!

Audience Prizes
Audience Award, Fiction Film
También la lluvia (Even The Rain) by Icíar Bollaín [Spain/France/Mexico]
This was one of the finalists for BEST FOREIGN FILM but did not make it to the nomination shortlist. It's currently open in select US theaters.
Second PlaceMedianeras by Gustavo Taretto [Argentina/Germany/Spain]
Third Place Life in a Day by Kevin Macdonald [Great Britain]
Audience Award, Documentary FilmIn Heaven Underground - The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery (Im Himmel, Unter der Erde. Der Jüdische Friedhof Weißensee) by Britta Wauer
Second PlaceMama Africa by Mika Kaurismäki
Third Place We Were Here by David Weissman (USA)

Teddy Awards
Berlinale's Teddy Award, which is separate from the main fest and judged by LGBT film festival programmers, is one of the oldest annually bestowed Queer Cinema awards. It was first handed out in 1987 to Pedro Almodóvar's Law of Desire. What a kick off, eh?  Perusing the list of past Teddy Award winners is actually a great way to catch up on LGBT films you may have missed. Gay cinema is increasingly not what it used to be. With assimilation into mainstream culture, queer cinema definitely lost its edge and brain-power if not its sex drive. These days we don't seem to get new Gregg Arakis, Gus Van Sants or Todd Haynes and their like but people whose names we never learn directing straight to DVD sex comedies. (sigh)

Last year's Teddy prizes were unusually Hollywood friendly with James Franco's first short film The Feast of Stephen [clip. NSFW] winning Best Short Film and Lisa Cholodenko's eventual Best Picture nominee The Kids Are All Right winning the top prize.

Jake Yuzna's "Open" (2010). Marie Losier's "Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye" (2011)

Jake Yuzma's far more experimental pansexual drama Open won the Jury Prize. I had the pleasure of attending the premiere here in NYC. Artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge  spoke to the audience afterwards. She and her late partner, Lady Jaye, who famously had repeated operations and plastic surgery procedures to look more and more like one another, were the inspiration for the fictional film. So I was surprised to hear that Berlin honored the very same topic again this year. Their Best Documentary prize went to The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier.

The Teddy, the main prize went to Argentina's Ausente, Marco Berger's follow up to Plan B which did the festival circuit last year and is now available on DVD.

Ausente is about teenager who falls in love with his swimming teacher, finding all sorts of excuses to spend time with him.

The Teddys in full
Best Feature Film: Ausente by Marco Berger
Best Documentary: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier
Best Short Film: (two winners) Generations by Barbara Hammer and Gina Carducci and Maya Deren’s Sink by Barbara Hammer
Jury Prize: Tomboy by Celine Sciamma
Special Teddy Awards:  HIV/AIDS activist Pieter-Dirk Uys from South Africa and New German Cinema director Werner Schroeter (RIP).

Here's the trailer to Ausente which means "absent"

 

Saturday
Feb192011

Mix Tape: "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in The Social Network

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with another look at the role of song choices in films. I'm gnerally dissatisfied with The Social Network's ending: first, the film's final line, with the legal associate Marilyn echoing the "asshole" comment made by Erica during the opening breakup scene, feels like forced parallelism. Second, Mark's attempt to friend Erica on Facebook (and his constant refreshing) suggests a pat, reductive explanation for his actions—he did it all for the girl that got away—regardless of how ambiguous the expression on Jesse Eisenberg's face is. Between these incidents, it's an ending unworthy of the layered, hyperactive film that preceded it.

However, the ending is somewhat redeemed and rendered a lot wittier by the choice of song that accompanies it, The Beatles' "Baby, You're a Rich Man." Of course, it's superficially appropriate to the film's last superimposed piece of information ("Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world"), but it's also laced with irony. Like, for example, how the tone of the song (warm, jingly, full of Beatles goofiness) clashes with the gravity and somberness of Fincher's film.

Just listen to it back-to-back with "Hand Covers Bruise," the first track from The Social Network's Reznor/Ross soundtrack, and the incongruity becomes painfully clear. The irony goes deeper, though, for while The Beatles' giddy attitude toward wealth and status may have felt suitable earlier in the film, like around the time Mark's buying his "I'm CEO, Bitch" business cards, the ending finds an older, sobered Mark who's realizing just how successfully he's cut off everyone else. The refrain "Baby, you're a rich man!" now sounds more like a prison sentence than a cause for celebration.

Most ironic of all, we've got that first line of the song: "How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" This recalls another possible explanation for Mark's behavior: his "Finals Clubs OCD," as Erica calls it, and his attendant rivalries with the ultra-Aryan Winklevii and his best friend Eduardo, who gets into the Phoenix. Mark—nerdy, insensitive, awkward, and yes, Jewish—has spent the whole film trying to move up the ladder of the Harvard community, to join the ranks of those "beautiful people," but now that he's among the richest people on earth, he's still compulsively, pathetically pressing the refresh button, pining for something (Erica's friendship) that he just can't have.

So with merely a four-decade-old song and the sound of Mark's clicking finger, Sorkin and Fincher's ending evokes all the inherent contradictions in the ways that Mark (and the film) view money, power, and friendship. He may be a rich man, but as they say, money can't buy you love.

Friday
Feb182011

Best Actress. Final Notes

My favorite category didn't disappoint this year, offering up the strongest overall lineup in quite some time. In fact, though these 2010 Best Actress roles won't prove as iconic in the long run as 2006's primo batch, I actually think as an entire range of performances, it might be that year's equal. Would you agree?

Should Natalie Portman be nervous about her chief rival? Or is it all in her head?

The question in terms of who will win is whether Natalie Portman's long lead is going to pay off or if a recent arguable passion / mood to finally crown The Bening has grown enough in the industry to yank that shiny gold man away. If that happens, Natalie, not Annette, will be the one yelling "Interloper!"

But I don't think it's going to happen. The Bening can console herself with the knowledge that she is one of my 33 all time favorite actresses. ;)

THE UPDATED BEST ACTRESS PAGE
includesPOLL "Who Should Win?" and the reader requested "how they got nominated? silliness. Which is actually not ever entirely silly even though it's meant for fun. We all know Oscar is not only about the performances. And if you don't know that, you must have slept through Sandra Bullock's win last year.

Friday
Feb182011

Leon, Angel, Adam, Edward and Andrew

This post is titled by the middle names of Oscar's BEST ACTOR nominees because here at The Film Experience we are always trying to find ways to keep things interesting. It would be much easier to title this blog post "Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco and Colin Firth" but where's the fun in that? If you enjoy a challenge, try to guess which middle name goes with which best actor, before you click over to the BEST ACTOR PAGE.


I include the trivia (and more) because this race is a done deal yet we have to stay interested for nine more days. Colin Firth's Coronation is proceeding exactly like Helen Mirren's a few years back, isn't it? It's like I was saying in that Tribeca Film article, each year there's generally one candidate who is granted immunity about whom no one ever bitches and who just sails through like it was always meant to be their year and their prize.

UPDATED: Includes Reader Poll "Who Should Win?"

 

Friday
Feb182011

Best Picture & Best Director. Final Notes

David FincherWith the Oscars just nine days away it's time to finalize the Oscar pages. I started with Best Picture and Best Director. I'm betting on a split with David Fincher taking the gold for The Social Network but The King's Speech taking Best Picture. Splits are not common as you know, but the BAFTA reaction could be telling. And could The Social Network really have burned through ALL of its awards pull before Oscar night? It's got to win something beyond Screenplay right?

The Best Picture page also has updated box office results and extremely useless trivia like number of animals abused, limbs lost, batshit crazy mothers and sex scenes and more that can be found in the ten-wide Best Picture field.

On the director's page I've theorized about what got Tom Hooper, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and Joel and Ethan Coen nominated (for entertainment purposes only... though I'd love to hear if I missed any reasons for the nods). Useless trivia: If you fused all of the directors together statistically you've got a 48 year old white American guy with 7 fairly cerebral films under his belt enjoying only his second adventure at the Oscars.

Friday
Feb182011