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Entries in Embrace of the Serpent (6)

Monday
Dec192016

Subtitles Fading But These Soldiers March On...

Year in Review. Every afternoon, a new wrap-up. Today an exhaustive list of how foreign films performed at the US box office...  

Perhaps no film is a more perfect encapsulation of the 2016 reality for foreign films in the US marketplace than Netflix's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel. The first was an international theatrical phenomenon and a true blockbuster delivering over $100 million in the United States alone. The sequel sixteen years later was in English and went straight to streaming. 

Despite the inhospitable 21st century climate nowadays, specialty distributors fight on to deliver some variety to the US marketplace. Here's how they fared this year. These numbers were pulled from Box Office Mojo and we tried to be as thorough as possible (though we did skip documentaries and animated features which are sometimes screened in both dubbed and subtitled versions in the same marketplace)

TOP 100 FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS FOR 2016
By US Box Office Gross. Title links go to reviews. 🔺 = still in theaters
Note: Figures as of March 30th, 2017

01 Dangal $12.3 (India)

02 No Manches Frida $11.5 (USA) available to stream on IMDb

03 Sultan $6.2 (India)
Bollywood films account for a big portion of each year's foreign film grosses in the US. Up until the release of Dangal at Christmas, none were mightier for most of 2016 than the sports drama starring Salman Khan (pictured above).

Oscar Finalists, Isabelle Huppert, and buzzy Korean hits after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun272016

The Furniture: The Venomous and Fanatical 'Embrace of the Serpent'

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber... 

Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia’s first-ever nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, contains multitudes. Ciro Guerra filters the Amazon Basin into a tremendous cinematic document, a rich cornucopia of unexpected tableaux. The choice to confine this colorful landscape to black and white would be uncanny enough on its own, but the narrative is also unmoored by transitions between the two timelines. Long before the final hallucination, our perceptions are overwhelmed by the range of complex images.

And, of course, the work of production designer Angelica Perea, art director Ramses Benjumea and set decorator Alejandro Franco is an essential component. The best example of their work comes right at the film’s midpoint, with a pair of profoundly unsettling episodes that interrogate the role of Catholic missionaries in Colombia’s colonial history. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Mar272016

My Big Fat Superhero Wedding Sequel

Batman v Superman + a little Wonder Woman dominated the weekend with a critic proof opening record for March. The test will be how well it can hold with terrible reviews and lackluster word of mouth. It's unlikely to have the staying power of something like Deadpool for example, which is still in the top ten 7 weeks after its debut. On the other hand it has free reign for a while with no direct competition coming for one entire month. Captain America Civil War arrives on April 8th. The question is this: Will Marvel's superheroes vs superheroes blockbuster be hurt by people feeling all "bleh" about Batman v Superman? Casual moviegoers rarely know the difference between studios and filmmakers and general history of quality, you know.

Meanwhile something girlier: Sally Field's little film is doing great with older moviegoers and enters the top ten in its 3rd week despite being on less than 500 screens. And finally, despite her phenomenally successful My Big Fat Greek Wedding being an ancient memory in pop culture years, Nia Vardalos's sequel did pretty well with a solid third place debut.  She tweeted out this celebratory opening weekend photo

We've never had a billboard.

What did you see this weekend?

TFE is very pleased to notice that Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia's Oscar nominated Amazon journey (which we've been raving about for months) is about to hit a million in the arthouses if it can hold its theaters for one more week. That's pretty good for such a weird black and white movie that didn't really get going until it had already lost the Oscar! 

TOP TEN
01 Batman v Superman $170.1 NEW Review
02 Zootopia $23.1 (cum. $240.5)  
03 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 $18.1 NEW
04 Miracles from Heaven $9.5  (cum. $34.1)
05 The Divergent Series: Allegiant $9.5 (cum. $46.6)
06 10 Cloverfield Lane $6 (cum. $56)
07 Deadpool $5 (cum. $349.4)  Reviewish
08 London Has Fallen $2.9 (cum. $55.6) 
09 Hello My Name is Doris $1.7  (cum. $3.2) Review 
10 Eye in the Sky $1.0 (cum. $1.7) 

RANDOM LIMITED RELEASES - JUST CHECKING IN
Embrace of the Serpent $.1 (cum. $.9) 73 screens Review, Interview
Knight of Cups $.06 ($.4) 68 screens Reviewish
I Saw the Light $.05 five screens NEW Review
Krisha $.03 (cum. $.05) 22 screens Review
April and the Extraordinary World $.01 one screen NEW 

Sunday
Feb212016

Interview: Ciro Guerra on the Must-See Oscar Nominee "Embrace of the Serpent"

Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia's great Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee took so long to arrive in theaters it may have well have arrived by rickety wooden boat after its grueling journey on the Amazon. But it's finally in theaters in select cities and just in time for the Oscars. Do NOT miss it.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the director Ciro Guerra about this cinematic triumph ... which I'm guessing was harder to make than The Revenant.

NATHANIEL: This is an extremely ambitious effort for a filmmaker as new as yourself. It's only your third film. How long have you been working on this?

CIRO GUERRA: I worked on it for about four years before we started shooting. I had done just two very personal films that were close to my experience, and my past, and my culture. So I wanted to go the opposite way, and take a journey into the unknown.

NATHANIEL: You did. It's hypnotically strange.

CIRO GUERRA: For us Colombians, the Amazon is the most unknown thing. It’s half of the country, but clearly we don’t know much about it. So, I had always been intrigued and fascinated and it had been a lifelong dream to do a film in the Amazon, and you know, these are the kind of films you can only do while you’re young. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec292015

Best of '15: Most Memorable Scares. Boo!

Jason from MNPP here for more Year in Review madness.

Truth be told 2015 was not the best year for horror movies. There were some smaller successes but only a couple of classics born, and out of those only one - David Robert Mitchell's It Follows would classify entirely as a genre exercise. But there were plenty of Scary Scenes, whether inside the horror genre or knock knock knocking on the door, and that's what we're here to celebrate.

The following moments aren't necessarily in hard order, save the top few, because What Scares Us is subjective to not just each individual person but to each individual moment that person is experiencing -- I might feel like "No thank you, Bugs" today but tomorrow it might be all like "I said NO THANK YOU, Cannibals!" instead. Fear's a funny thing like that.

Anyway beware spoilers below, as we'll be discussing in a little bit of detail the money-shots of the year in "Boo!"

The 15 Scariest Scenes of 2015
from all sorts of films after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep172015

TIFF: Embrace of the Serpent (and Oscar Foreign Film Updates)

TIFF tends to be the best opportunity all year to see several Foreign Film Oscar submissions in quick succession. The trick is you don't often know which ones they well be and sometimes,  due to release dates in their home countries, they end up as submissions the following year. Last September, at this same festival for example I saw Labyrinth of Lies and Sand Dollars which are now the Oscar submissions for this year's race from Germany and The Dominican Republic.

Two days before Embrace of the Serpent was proclaimed Colombia's official submission, I attended the screening. Good luck for me and good choice for them: it's mesmerizing.

Ciro Guerra's third film wraps itself all around you with otherworldly danger. And this is not just a word choice via subliminal suggestion from the slimy encircling imagery of an enormous snake giving birth that occurs before the title. This journey film's stunning black and white photography by David Gallego (a relative newcomer!) only adds to the dreamlike visuals of the Colombian Amazon, totally transporting you into a rickety boat on the water, on two different journeys 40 years apart. The film was inspired by real life journals of explorers and both trips involve a white scientist searching for a mystical plant called Yakruna, which is said to have great healing power. Each of them take as their guide the same Amazonian shaman Karamakate who is played by as a younger man by Niblio Torres and and older man by Antonio Bolivar, neither have acted for cameras before but Karamakate in both forms has real screen presence.

The dangerous stops along the river's way angrily condemn the decimation of indigenous cultures by colonized rubber plantations and missionaries. We also get a taste of religious insanity on par with The Devils, and the jungle madness of Apocalypse Now and Aguirre the Wrath of God. And the films it recalls don't stop there. The snake birth is just one of three spectacularly trippy off-narrative sequences, the final one daring to invoke 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its psychedelic mysteries. If Embrace of the Serpent never feels wholly original as a result and only Karamakate registers as a three dimensional character, it's still an intense journey and very rewarding visual feast. This Colombian wonder won the top award at Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes earlier this summer, and could well impress Oscar voters who love a visual epic. Oscilloscope will distribute it in the States. Cross your fingers that it'll play on the biggest possible arthouse screen near you. B+/A- 

Related: There have been several foreign film submissions announced while I've been festivaling it up in Toronto. So make sure to check out the updated foreign film charts.

Current Predictions plus all time stats/trivia
• Afghanistan through Estonia  11 official
• Ethiopia through The Netherlands 20 official
New Zealand through Vietnam 16 official 

We now have 47 official titles, with probably 20-25 more yet to be named with the biggest missing links (i.e. countries that Oscar is fond of) being Denmark, France, Israel, Poland and Spain.