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Nicole Kidman on Stage

"Any chance this transfers to broadway I wonder?" - Joseph

"As a long term Kidmaniac, this is just the type of comeback I was hoping for." - allaboutmymovies


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Entries in foreign films (265)


Dear Readers, obrigado, xie xie, takk, danke!

Before Fall Film Season hits us like a ton of bricks in 3...2...1.. I wanted to thank the faithful readers. Running a daily site is not even remotely easy though it may sometimes appear to be from the outside. We truly cherish those of you who tune in regularly. Especially those of you who take the time to tweet out articles, or email them to friends or share them on facebook or what not. 

Your editor Nathaniel (c'est moi) has always loved globes & maps. This could account for some of our obsession with oscar's foreign film submissions each year (today was the final day for countries to submit!). Whilst pitching an ad block to a distributor recently we got lost in statistics to where the readership actually is. More...

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Oscar Contender "The Assassin" Leads the Golden Horse Nominations

Nominations for the 52nd annual Golden Horse Awards have been announced with Taiwan's Oscar submission The Assassin leading the pack as well as netting arthouse favorite Hou Hsiao-Hsien a non-competitive statue for "Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker" to go along with his Best Director prize from Cannes earlier this year. The Assassin opens in limited US theatrical release on October 16th via Well Go entertainment. China's Oscar submission Wolf Totem, which is actually from animal-movie loving French director Jean-Jacques Annaud (!), only received 1 nomination for visual effects. The latter film is about a student living with Mongolian herders who adopts a wolf cub. 

Though The Assassin is likely to sweep the Golden Horses outside of acting (where only the ridiculously beautiful Shu Qi, Hou's regular muse, is nominated. No Chen Chang? Grrrr.) it's not the only big deal in Chinese languages cinema this year. Taiwan's Thanatos, Drunk, Hong Kong's popular crime thriller Port of Call, and China's acclaimed festival favorite Mountains May Depart also reaped several nominations. The event will be held on November 21st in Taipei. 


A complete list of nominations after the jump...

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Interview: "Labyrinth of Lies" Director on Obsession, Oscars and How Directing is Like Playing Music

Jose here. When we first meet Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) in Labyrinth of Lies, he’s a tenacious, idealistic prosecutor, who refuses to let a young woman get away unscathed from a minor traffic ticket with the notion that the law should be abided no matter what. His world is turned upside down upon discovering that the system he respects so much is overcrowded with former Nazis who were never prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. When his boss Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss) sees his potential, he assigns him to investigate the crimes committed by former workers at Auschwitz. Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli, Labyrinth of Lies is a powerful thriller that touches on the subject of obsession in unexpected  ways. The film’s plot spans for almost a decade, which allows us to see the frustration and powerlessness felt by the characters. Even knowing the real life outcome, we sometimes doubt Johann will be able to overcome the corruption and indifference of those in power.

The film will represent German at the Academy Awards, and begins its US theatrical release today. I spoke to director Ricciarelli about his unique directorial style, the theme of obsession and creating supporting characters worthy of their own movies.

JOSE: Labyrinth of Lies is essentially a film about obsession. Can you talk about how you used obsession to shape the structure of the film and the character played by Alexander Fehling?

more after the jump

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The Oscar Foreign Film Submission List - We're Almost There!

With the "official" statement still to come from the Academy (expect it in just under a week) we know the titles of 71 contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar thus far. Last year 83 countries, a record, submitted. The latest titles to be named from countries still waiting on their first nomination include Jalal's Story (Bangladesh), Men Who Save the World (Malaysia), You Carry Me (Montenegro), and Heavenly Nomadic (Kyrgyzstan). Infrequently nominated countries like India (Court) and Iran (Muhammad, Messenger of God) have announced controversial chocies.

As for traditionally bigger Oscar players, we're still waiting on Italy and Spain (Spain has narrowed it down to three films) but now we have the titles from Canada (Felix & Meira) and Denmark (A War). 

• Current Predictions plus all time stats/trivia
• Afghanistan through Estonia  18 official 
• Ethiopia through The Netherlands 30 official
• Norway through Vietnam 23 official 


NYFF: Mia Madre & No Home Movie

Manuel on an unlikely double feature he’d like to dub “How I Mourned Your Mother.”

In his TIFF coverage, Nathaniel mentioned that film festivals sometimes offer you random thematic threads born out of unlikely juxtapositions. This was the case when I caught Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre and Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie almost back to back. Both films are concerned and inspired by the death of the respective filmmakers’ mothers. The results are as widely different as you’d imagine and fascinating for wildly different reasons.

Moretti’s Mia Madre opens with a scene of laborers rioting against their factory’s owners. Workers chant and fight against armored policemen in riot gear. And then Margherita (an effectively understated Margherita Buy) yells “Stop!” She’s shooting a film, as it turns out and she’s not too happy with the framing she was getting. We slowly learn her personal life is taking a toll; she’s broken up with her boyfriend and her mother is slowly dying at the hospital. You can almost imagine the press about that shoot (“Director’s Personal Issues All But Ruined the Production”). [More...]

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TIFF: Baba Joon, Dégradé, Much Loved

on the set of Baba JoonAmir files our last TIFF report on three films, one of them hoping for Oscar...

Baba Joon (Israel)
Israel’s Oscar submission is quite a unique experience: the lives of Iranian Jews who have left their homeland to live in Israel—and are consequently not allowed to re-enter Iran because of the two countries’ bitter relationship has never been portrayed on screen. In Yuval Delshad’s debut feature, the titular character and his clan—a son, his wife and their son—all live on a small turkey farm in rural Israel and live with very modest means. The tensions between multiple generations of the family, and the melancholia of living at once at home and away from home are the film’s central themes.

Baba Joon’s storytelling and the emotional beats are familiar. There is nothing in the strained father-son dynamics, troubled by decades of repression, that we haven’t previously seen on the big screen. The film’s abrupt but rather predictable ending lends it a saccharine flavour that might sit well with the Academy, but undermines the film. When the story’s resolution is presented so neatly with a gift wrap, very little is left for the audience to ponder. Still, this is a heartfelt film of genuinely well intentions, with a sizable novelty factor, whose fresh look at ethnic minorities in the Middle East is quietly delightful.

Dégradé (Palestine/France/Qatar)
This debut film from eccentrically named brothers Arab and Tarzan Nasser, shows similar irreverence in depicting ethnic tensions with Israel. Part Almodovar-esque comedy of women on the verge of nervous breakdowns, part a thriller revolving a hostage situation, their film, which stars Hiam Abbas and Maisa Abd Elhadi, is based in a hair salon in Gaza, where the clientele hail from different social, religious and political backgrounds. As they wait their turns to be beautified, the salon becomes increasingly like a microcosm of Gaza’s society, and the world beyond the confines of the building is engulfed in violence.

Dégradé is an interesting look at life in the occupied territories because it broadens the conversation beyond the Israel-Palestine binary. In the film’s view, the community is rife with tensions and chasms, all exacerbated by the atrocious limitations of living in occupation. Yet, the image is much richer and layered than normally shown on screen, breaking the monolithic view of Palestinians in favour of a more complex perspective. That the film manages to convey these intricacies while remaining consistently entertaining is a significant accomplishment, and one that promises much more from the filmmaking duo.

Much Loved (Morocco/France)
The most daring film among the bunch comes from the more experienced hands of Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch. Ayouch surveys the night club scene in Marrakech, a world filled with sex, drugs and rampant decadence. Home to tourists from Saudi Arabia and Europe, the city’s nightlife is bustling and its sex industry is ever active, almost completely removed from the crisis-ridden country that surrounds it. Almost.  Following Noha (Loubna Abidar) and her entourage of less experienced escorts, Much Loved is as intimate a film as it is provocative.

Ayouch has had to field a lot of controversy, mostly due to the explicit displays of sex in his film; and while the murky release prospects of the film in the Arab world are understandable, it’s unfortunate if sex becomes the only talking point. This is the rare film that intertwines the lives of sex workers with socio-economic issues without becoming patronizing. Morocco’s complicated relationships with Europe and other Arab countries, and its tenuous political situation are subtly worked into the plot of the film. It’s intimate and superbly acted—mostly by amateur performers— and a film that's heartbreaking, humorous and evocative in equal measure. In a festival that is never short on big films from big directors, Much Loved was a true discovery.


TIFF: Two More Foreign Language Oscar Submissions

2015's TIFF has concluded and we tried to catch a few of the Foreign Language Oscar submissions while we were there. We've already written about Colombia's Embrace of the Serpent so here are two more official entries from Norway and Portugal

Oscar Trivia Notes: Portugal holds the sad statistic of being the country with the most annual submissions (32 in total) to have never been nominated. This category was established as an annual competitive event back in 1956 and Portugal began submitting in 1980 - they've missed only a few years of the competition since. Norway has fared better. Though Israel, Mexico, and Belgium, lead this particular statistic, Norway is stuck in a tie for fourth place with Greece for "the most nominated country that has yet to win the foreign film Oscar." Norway has been nominated five times. More fun stats here. I'd suggest that The Wave didn't have a prayer of being nominated except that the last time Oscar went for a Norwegian film it was a similarly conventional mainstream adventure (Kon-Tiki) so who knows.

The Wave (Norway, Roar Uthaug)
The best thing one can and should say about this disaster epic from Norway is that it's just as good as your average American entry in this crowded genre and it does that with a significantly lower budget while sticking closer to plausible science in its action sequences. It keeps things more intimate, keeping a tight focus on one family and a group of coworkers, and building slowly to the money shot disaster. The tsunami doesn't happen until well into the running time but The Wave keeps you interested regardless.  It's no surprise that Norway submitted it since it is a massive blockbuster there. According to the director's intro at the public screening over half a million people at home had already bought tickets to it in less than a month. (Can you imagine 10% of the US population going to any single movie in a month's time frame? It just doesn't happen. I think American Sniper could argue it got there but not in one month's time!) Still The Wave has the same ugly problem of valuing one blond family's welfare over everyone else's entire existence that got The Impossible into trouble with critics. Although The Wave has a better excuse for its total whiteness since it's Norway (which is very white) not Thailand! But The Wave is even more ruthless about placing the sanctity of this one family's unity and love and survival above anyone else, though I shan't spoil why that is. Nevertheless the movie is exciting to watch, the three principal actors are charming (including Ane Dahl Torp who also starred in Norway's submission last year 1001 Grams) and Norwegian movies can always be counted on for sublime scenery -- even when that scenery turns malevolent -- but boy is this thing cliche-ridden and predictable! B-

Arabian Nights Volume 2: The Desolate One (Portugal, Miguel Gomes)
I attended the middle feature of this trilogy, the one that was Oscar submitted because the director claims you needn't see the three films in order, with Nick and Amir as my final film of TIFF. They both emerged from the screenings with missionary zeal about its brilliance. Nick considers the trilogy the movie event of the year. I'm not as gaga for it though I admit that part of that may well be that I a) didn't get it and b) I have a well known lack of tolerance for artists that can't self-edit and long running times and a 7 hour three part movie in which every sequence (that I've seen) has dead space pushes these buttons for me in a big way. I'll let Amir review the trilogy proper since he's a true fan but I will say despite my reservations on the length of the project as a whole and even this third of it (which is itself over 2 hours long) it is often quite funny and provocative in its pile-up of politics, storytelling idiosyncracies, and nonsensical events (as an example of the latter at one point a character turns invisible and seems to teleport with a muscle flexing grunt and this has nothing at all to do with the story or the scene or the narration or the political content as far as I can gather) 

Dixie is a born starMiguel Gomes, who previous directed the whatsit Tabu (that critics were also besotted with), is in his own way as weird and singular an auteur as Thailand's Apichatpong Weerathasakul. His movies could not be accidentally mistaken for anyone else's and that, should you be in doubt, is a huge compliment. This trilogy is NOT an adaptation of the classic Arabian Nights but just borrows its structure with this version of Scheherazade telling us fables about poverty, politics, and social justice that are drawn from / comment on the Austerity period in Portugal that impoverished many of its citizens.

To make this trilogy project even more confusing, each volume has multiple stories within it. Volume 2 has three plus separate stories: the first is about "a man without bowels" who is being hunted by the police; the second, my preference, is about a Judge trying a case in what looks like an ancient greek theater which becomes more and more absurd and abstract and continually finds new people to blame as it progresses; the last is the story of an raggedy poodle named "Dixie" and her rotating people who have to keep giving her up. Dixie is a total cutie and won "the Palme Dog" at Cannes.

To make this volume even more confusing, the story of Dixie has several nested stories within it about the residents of a particular apartment building which have nothing at all to do with Dixie though other pets come into play (Gomes movies seem fascinated by animals be they dogs, alligators, parrots, cats, or whatnot). Describing the abundant oddity is nearly impossible: people turn invisible, cows speak at trials, naked ladies bake cakes. Real Oscar Bait, people! WTF

Related: There are now 61 official submission titles so make sure to check out the updated foreign film charts.

• Current Predictions plus all time stats/trivia
• Afghanistan through Estonia  15 official 
• Ethiopia through The Netherlands 25 official
• Norway through Vietnam 21 official 

The full official submission list will be published around October 1st with probably about 10 more titles joining this current lineup. Generally speaking at least one of the previously announced titles mysteriously vanishes or is replaced when the official list is published.