One of TFE's cinematic heroes Ava DuVernay -- she made our top ten list with both of her recent films in 2012 & 2014 respectively -- had a tremendous year in 2015. She kicked it off with a Golden Globe Best Director nomination, a hit film in theaters (Selma) and she ended it immortalized in collector Barbie doll form via Mattel. The Mattel doll sold out in less than an hour earlier this month. And when Amazon briefly offered more of them they sold out just as quickly.
Entries in Directors (207)
A young boy moves to a new town with his family. He's a goofball, a caring older sibling, and a shy kid. On his first day on the block, he runs into a girl and introduces himself as Mikael. She introduces herself as Lisa, and invites him to play a game of tag with her friends. Later, as he's taking a bath with his younger sister, his mother calls him Laure. She laughs and tells them: "Girls, get out of the bath!" It's almost 20 minutes into the movie before Celine Sciamma upends the expectations of her audience. In Tomboy, Sciamma examines how identity is constructed through performance in childhood, specifically in regards to gender.
The main character of Sciamma's 2011 film is still in that period before hormones kick in when all kids are basically agender in appearance. What separates genders from each other is how they move and how they present themselves.
Jose here. The evils of the Nazi regime have been documented in myriad ways, and in practically every medium possible. Film in particular, has created a subgenre that consists of harrowing stories about concentration camps, the diabolical genocide of the Jews, and other events that put all the human race under a shameful light. However, perhaps because of Hollywood’s tendency to overpraise the human spirit, and its relentless need to “inspire”, Holocaust films have become a “niche” meant to help actors and directors win awards. Holocaust films in a nutshell always go for the emotional and rarely, if ever, attempt to touch the intellectual.
Enter first time director László Nemes, who caught Cannes by surprise with his unique Son of Saul, which has just opened in US theaters, a film that dispenses of each and every cliché you’ve seen played in every other Holocaust movie. There are no string-filled overwrought scores, no movie stars losing weight, gaining accents or donning beards, and most surprisingly, there are no attempts at oversimplifying the Holocaust as anything other than a series of personal infernos lived in a collective reality. The inner hell in this case, is that of Auschwitz prisoner Saul (Géza Röhrig), a Sonderkommando member, who one day makes a gruesome discovery that drives him to make a decision that might have deadly results.
The interview after the jump...
Those who say, "I wish I was young," probably don't remember just how painful being young can be. French female filmmaker Celine Sciamma remembers, and she brings the hopes and pains of early teenagers to the screen in her 2007 directorial debut. Water Lilies is an uncomfortable movie to watch as an adult. Teenagers are sometimes naked and often sexual; two things American try to avoid in our mainstream depictions of 14 and 15 year old girls. However, though Water Lilies is about young female sexuality, the young females are not sexualized. At least, not by Celine Sciamma's camera. It's an important distinction, because the film will be uncomfortably familiar to anyone who remembers their first friends, first loves, first lusts, and the heartbreaks that come from each.
Water Lilies circles around the awakening of two girls from the French suburbs. Anne (Louise Blachere) is a big-boned synchronized swimmer whose weight and clumsiness put her in the lowest ranks of the team, socially and competitively. Her best friend is Marie (Pauline Acquart), a slight, mousy tomboy who says little but watches everything. They play with Happy Meals with toy spyglasses and spit water at each other for fun like kids do, but they're also beginning to develop feelings: Anne for Francois, the captain of the boy's water polo team, and Marie for the star of the synchronized swimmers, a beautiful girl with a bad reputation named Floriane (Adele Haenel). Unlike Marie and Anne, Floriane understands what desire is, or at least how to recognize when someone desires her. She's known since the adult swim coach started chasing her around the room. What Floriane doesn't know is what she herself wants. [More...]
Lynn Lee test-drives a new, potentially recurring feature wherein TFE members voice dissent on Oscar hopefuls and critical darlings.
If you’re on this site, it’s safe to assume you pay attention to movie critics. It’s also a fair bet you’re likely—or at least more likely than the average person—to agree with the critics when they coalesce around a particular movie. But if you’re like me, every once in a while a film comes along that generates a level of critical enthusiasm you just don’t get. You’d like to share or at least understand it, but instead find yourself feeling like the lone non-believer in a church full of the radiant converted.
That’s how it’s been for me and Mad Max: Fury Road, which met with rave reviews and solid box office when it hit theaters this summer. More recently, it’s picked up a raft of critics’ awards and nominations that have kept it in the Oscars conversation - not just in the technical categories but the majors, including picture and director. Any doubt about its chances stems from the fact that it’s a “genre” film, not its intrinsic merits, which most agree transcend its genre. [More...]
It's been an enormously busy week with precursor decisions confusing and clarifying in equal measure. Even if you don't put much stock in the Critic's Choice Awards (also known as the BFCA, an organization that includes your host) it'll be interesting to see what they come up with since ballots were due today and so many questions remain. Though the organization prides itself on Oscar predictive power (a very weird thing to pride yourself on unless you're a pundit rather than a critic) the confusing nature of the race won't make things easy on any pundit.
While I've been accused of overthinking various races often (who, me?) such is the curse of punditry and Oscar obsessiveness. Here's where I think we stand now...
PICTURE & DIRECTOR If this race we're taking place in 2008 with the old school five-wide race it would obviously be Spotlight, The Martian, Carol, The Revenant, and Room at this point with one of the directors jettisoned for Mad Max's overachievement by George Miller. Beyond that it's so complicated both because we don't know how many nominees we'll get and because seven other pictures still seem plausible as a Best Picture nominee for one reason or another though they had shakier reactions in these first two precursor weeks. For instance: Creed hasn't been doing all that well but I still think it's a big Oscar possibility. Am I crazy or just concussed? And speaking of...
ACTOR While I don't imagine we'll see a repeat of Will Smith's Globe nominated Concussion performance on the Oscar shortlist it's one of about ten performances that still seem to be in the race. You'll have to cleave that in half in January. DiCaprio, Redmayne, Fassbender, and Cranston all have the key nominations (Globe & SAG) but each year at least one or two people across the four categories with that combo miss and you need #1 votes given the Academy's nomination tallying system. So which performances or beloved actors have the most passion behind them? This is why I still think Michael B Jordan or even Sir Ian could surprise despite the lack of SAG or Globe love; it's always important to remember that those voting bodies are quite dissimilar to Oscar's acting branch.
SUPPORTING ACTOR Precursors have coalesced around Michael Shannon, Idris Elba, and Mark Rylance but because the former two weren't what people widely expected, CHAOS REIGNS. Sly Stallone still feels like a potential winner IF he's nominated. And will Oscar really deprive anyone from Spotlight of an acting nomination? That would be so weird for such an actor's friendly Best Picture frontrunner.
ACTRESS & SUPPORTING ACTRESS We'll have to list these two together because of the ongoing controversy surrounding Rooney Mara (one half of Carol's brilliant romantic coupling) and Alicia Vikander (who has two films splitting supporting honors Ex Machina and The Danish Girl, even though she's the leading lady of both). The discussions around these two have sucked so much oxygen out of the room for other women (in both the leading and supporting races) that I imagine they're both still getting nominated for Supporting DAMNIT since voters likely haven't thought through their other options . The solution: quality longshots should be working their asses off for the next two weeks to remind people of their existence (We're talking to you: Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, Julie Walters, and Cynthia Nixon) since Academy voters don't get their ballots until the end of the year. Over in lead actress only four women feel secure (yes, that includes Charlotte Rampling. Come at me!) which means it's a true free for all for the fifth-slot. This week I chose Lily Tomlin as the lucky lady but it could be anyone from the second tier of the chart (or Mara or Vikander).
The other category charts will be updated this weekend -- SAG & Globe choices tell us virtually nothing about Oscar tastes when it comes to the other categories so we can think awhile longer on it.
Investigate the new charts and report back. What does your crystal ball say?
Considering how often Pariah is called "a critical darling," it's disappointingly shocking that it took another 4 years for Dee Rees's next movie. Bessie is an HBO biopic of singer Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, who rose to prominence in the 1920s and died in a car accident in the mid-1930s. When the movie premiered earlier this year, Angelica Jade Bastién wrote a fabulous personal review of it which I highly suggest you read. As Angelica points out, Rees's sophomore effort is a well-directed film that gets a lot right, even though it falls into a lot of the typical biopic pitfalls.
While the plotline of Bessie's meteoric rise, humbling fall, and return to semi-greatness followed a predictable biopic path, what really struck me about this collaboration between Dee Rees and Queen Latifah was how unapologetically individual it was. Unfortunately, fact-based films about black characters, if they are expected to attract a wider (whiter) audience, incorporate white characters to a large degree. Selma and 12 Years A Slave both have white antagonists who gain a lot of screentime - in the case of 12 Years A Slave, it was enough screentime to net Michael Fassbender an Academy Award Nominations.
In Bessie, blackness and queerness dominate...