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Entries in foreign films (329)

Monday
Sep262016

Foreign Oscar Watch: Can "Elle" Slay the Competition?

Verhoeven & Huppert at Cannes this summer

France, as ever, was spoiled with options when it came to selecting their film for Oscar competition this year. Frantz (reviewed) from François Ozon would likely have appealed to Oscar voters but the selection committee went with the controversial Elle (reviewed at TIFF). It's a brave choice but we think a smart one; even if its divisive within initial voting, it will likely be a candidate to benefit under the Executive Committee 'saves' rule. Plus those who love it will love it passionately meaning it could even have a dark horse shot at a win. Not only does it have a high profile auteur and star (Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert) but it's got sensational reviews, a US release on the table in the thick of Oscar traction season (November 11th), and an outside shot at a Best Actress nomination. France has not won the category since Indochine (1992) despite numerous nominations.

Trivia: Paul Verhoeven has had one previous film nominated in this category for his home country The Netherlands with Turkish Delight (1973). If Elle is nominated it would not be the first time a director has competed for multiple countries: Akira Kurosawa, who competed many times for Japan, won the prize for the Soviet Union with Dersu Uzala (1975); Luis Buñuel who won the Oscar for France with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) was also nominated twice for Spain, his home country; and Michael Haneke won for Austria with Amour (2012) and also competed for Germany with The White Ribbon (2009) 

More News:
Oscar's other favorite country Italy has selected the Golden Bear winner, Fire at Sea (reviewed at Berlinale), a documentary about the European migrant crisis. To my knowledge only two documentaries have ever been nominated in this category (Waltz With Bashir from Israel and The Missing Picture from Cambodia) but both of those were in the past eight years so perhaps Oscar votings are loosening up about these distinctions. Among countries who have not yet announced their submissions (with a week left) Poland and Argentina are the most formidable, statistically speaking, with Oscar.

Foreign Film Oscar Charts
Predictions - 15 films that could have the best chance at the finals?
Afghanistan to Finland - 22 submissions thus far
George to Morocco - 23 submissions thus far
Nepal to Venezuela - 28 submissions thus far 

Friday
Sep232016

Foreign Oscar Watch: Bedouin Marriage, Persian Haunting, Slavic Space Program

Yesterday at an unusually tense and controversial Ophir Awards ceremony, Sand Storm won the Israeli Oscar and will thus be Israel's Oscar submission. The debut female director Elite Zexer, giving the last acceptance speech of the evening, spoke about how she employed Jews, Muslims, and Christians on the picture. 

Though I already think Israel should have won the Oscar in this category (for Late Marriage which was submitted but not nominated in the year of Amelie and No Man's Land) and they've had high quality films in the mix before, I'm a little cool on this particular picture. Ah well, you can't love everything!

The UK's submission is a horror thriller set in IranAs more and more titles are announced for the Foreign Oscar Race, the variety of genres keeps growing, too. We have animated films, horror thrillers, docu-fiction hybrids, political dramas, romantic comedies, crime films, as well as submissions from this particular category's three all time favorite subgenres: 1) WW II Anything, 2) Internationally Famous Auteur Made It, and 3) Emotional Journeys Featuring Young Child/Children Forming Bond and/or Travelling With Old Person/Persons. 

Beyond Israel's submission the past few days have brought us a Persian horror film submitted by the UK called Under the Shadow, Canada's third attempt at getting Oscar voters to love Xavier Dolan with It's Only the End of the World, Slovenia's docu-drama about America's interest in the Yugoslavian space program in the 1960s, Iceland's family drama Sparrows (which curiously marks the fourth year in a row that country has sent a film with an animal in the title), a big budget Pakistani effort about poets in two different eras called Mah e Mir, and Hong Kong's hit crime drama Port of Call starring Aaron Kwok. You can read about all 73 titles on the charts

We've reviewed 11 of the 73 titles announced thus far (with more reviews soon) In case you missed any of those reviews, here's the list:

With the caveat that i have MANY more submissions yet to see, my four favorites (to date) are the entries from Chile, Bosnia, Singapore, and Estonia

  • Death in Sarajevo - Bosnia & Herzegovina's politically-loaded hotel drama 
  • Mother - Estonia's black comedy about a very popular comatose man
  • Elle - France's twisted comedy about a woman who reacts strangely to a rape
  • Chevalier - Greece's satire on competitive masculinity
  • Sand Storm - Israel's feminist drama (their first submission entirely in Arabic) about women in unhappy marriages
  • Fire at Sea - Italy's documentary on the migrant crisis
  • A Flickering Truth - New Zealand's doc on a quite unusual subject: film preservation in Afghanistan
  • Apprentice - Singapore's prison drama on capital punishment
  • My Life as a Courgette - Switzerland's animated film about orphaned/abused children
  • As I Open My Eyes - Tunisia's youth drama about musicians struggling with the lack of freedom of expression they're allowed
  • From Afar - Venezuela's violent intergenerational LGBT romance

Four of the submissions this year are in theaters in the US or about to hit: Australia's Tanna and South Korea's The Age of Shadows are now in theaters in select cities; Sweden's A Man Called Ove opens next Friday; and on October 14th we get one of the most high-profile competitors in Mexico's Desierto starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Foreign Oscar regular / international star Gael García Bernal. (Bernal also leads Chile's excellent submission from Pablo Larraín called Neruda; we fully expect Larraín to have two films in the Oscar running since he also directed Jackie). Desierto is directed by Alfonso Cuarón's 34 yr old son Jonás, who co-wrote Gravity with his dad. Will you try to catch these films in theaters? 

Monday
Sep192016

"Land of Mine" to compete for Foreign Oscar. (Plus Chart Updates)

Though I just gushed love all over Thomas Vinterberg's Oscar submission finalist The Commune yesterday, today brings news that Denmark went with another title for their submission. The committee unanimously chose Land of Mine, a World War II drama. The film looks at a little told story about German POWs in Denmark forced to dig up land mines. The film will be released in the US by Sony Pictures Classics, dates TBA. It's worth noting that the film is also up for the Nordic Film Prize on November 1st, a prize which has other Oscar submission finalists in the running:

Nordic Council Film Prize Nominees
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finland's Oscar submission)
The Here After (Sweden - Reviewed last year at TIFF)
Land of Mine (Denmark's Oscar submission)
Louder Than Bombs (Norway's English Language Joachim von Trier film)
Sparrows (Iceland's Oscar submission finalist - they have not announced yet)

If you haven't checked out the Foreign Film Submission Charts they've had multiple updates recently with 55 films announced thus far (the number of contenders generally falls somewhere between 75-80 when all is said and done). New announcements include Apprentice from Singapore (reviewed), Jonas Cuarón's Desierto from Mexico (opening next month in the US starring Gael García Bernal, a mainstay of this category), Asgar Farhadi's Arthur Miller inspired Salesman from Iran, Karma from Thailand, and more. You can read about the films on the charts

Submission Charts
Afghanistan to Finland - 20 submissions thus far
George to Morocco - 13 submissions thus far
Nepal to Venezuela - 23 submissions thus far 

Current Predictions 
Here are 15 hunches, alphabetically, of films that have a good shot at the 9-wide finals. In red is the only film you could argue is locked up for the finalist list.
Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia)
Desierto (Mexico)
Happiest Day in the Life... (Finland)
Julieta (Spain)
The King's Choice (Norway)
Land of Mine (Denmark)
Letters From War (Portugal)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
Neruda (Chile)
Salesman (Iran)
Sieranevada (Romania)
Tanna (Australia)
Toni Erdmann (Germany) 
Train Drivers Diary (Serbia) 
"Whatever France Submits" (TBA) 

 

Sunday
Sep182016

TIFF: Thomas Vinterberg returns with "The Commune"

Nathaniel R from the Toronto International Film Festival

Thomas Vinterberg first came to fame with the Dogme 95 masterpiece The Celebration (1998) which was an international success reaping Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Foreign Film. Oscar famously snubbed it during their long stretch of controversial years in the 90s and 00s where they regularly ignored major critical darlings eventually prompting reforms to the selection process in the late Aughts. Vinterberg was eventually nominated with another international success The Hunt (2012) and after his English language sleeper success Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) it's safe to say he's on quite a roll currently. 

For years people had suggested to Vinterberg that he make a film about commune life since he had grown up in one as a child in the 70s...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep182016

What the hell did I just watch? A festival quartet

Nathaniel R reporting from TIFF. The festival ends today (I expect La La Land to win the coveted People's Choice in this non-juried festival) so I'm about to hit the airport. I'll be scrambling to finish telling you about the cinematic adventures screened from all over the world in the next couple of days -- and yes update the Oscar charts with all this new information -- so we can wrap up. And then NYFF begins!

Here are three films that go completely off the rails and one film that stays perfectly on track though the protagonist goes off it. Each have as many cons as pros so they're mixed experiences, presented in preference order. So click on for Argentinian nudist comedies (NSFW), Anne Heche and Sandra Oh fist-fighting, Greek paraonia, and the latest from A Girl Walks Home At Night's director who has graduated to bigger budgets and famous actors.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep172016

TIFF: Strange Weather and Handsome Devil

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

Despite the buzz from festivals usually circling around pre-sold films and major Oscar hopefuls, there are always minor gems to be found amongst the clutter which are still seeking distribution. Here are two I hope get picked up, a very accessible Irish boarding school drama (without the benefit of any big name to sell it) and an American indie starring Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Strange Weather
(Dir. Katherine Dieckmann, US)
Take a look at that still above. Now look way to your out of focus far right. See the girl in pink tank and jean shorts? That's Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers), one of the best actresses working who is still not a household name or an Emmy or Oscar nominee! But, yes, movie still providers to festival guides, Holly Hunter is the draw here. She plays Darcy Baylor, a bohemian mother of meager means (a Holly specialty - see also Thirteen) who lost her only child to suicide years before the film begins. She has never quite been the same and her fierce best friend (Carrie Coon), her best friend's girlfriend (Andrene Ward-Hammond who is also in Loving this year) and her ex-boyfriend (a soulful Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy) are concerned about her all over again when a couple of chance encounters reveal something she didn't know about the day he died. Though the plot can be (okay is) convoluted, the writing is otherwise strong with well defined characters, great conversations (it's partially a road trip movie), and a ineffable central arc that Holly Hunter has no trouble selling because she is Holly Hunter and goddamnit we don't appreciate her enough. Though there are a couple of bumpy patches in this road with wonky cuts, shots, and transitions -- perhaps budget trouble? -- and that aforementioned convoluted story might be difficult if you're not into the actresses. But if you aren't, your loss! I could have watched these characters/actors for another hour. I'll take a spinoff series with Carrie and her lesbian lover please! B/B- 

Handsome Devil 
(Dir. John Butler, Ireland)
This Irish boarding school drama about a redhead student who cares nothing for sports at a rugby-mad school is sweet goodhearted fun. It risks being a little 'This is a Teen Movie!' annoying and unrealistic in its construction (complete with occasionally snarky narration) but the friendship at its center between music-loving Ned (Fionn O'Shea) and strong and silent rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine) is really well done and fills up the heart of this accessible mainstream charmer about "otherness." The undervalued / always terrific Andrew Scott (Pride) plays the gay teacher who encourages Ned & Conor in their odd couple friendship and their off-sport pursuits. You know we've come a long way when a movie with a rather large LGBT element is not even listed with a key word of LGBT in the festival guide! (Director John Butler made one previous feature called The Bachelor Weekend which we reviewed a couple of years ago which also starred Andrew Scott. He's made a leap forward with this second feature.)  B