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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in foreign films (210)

Tuesday
Nov182014

Foreign Oscar Watch: Iran's "Today"

[This post is part of our continuing series on this year’s contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. We're aiming to review (gasp) half of them. Here’s Amir with the Iranian entry, Today. He has also interviewed the director and discussed the film on his Iranian cinema podcast "Hello Cinema". - Editor]

Reza Mirkarimi is probably overdue for an Oscar nomination. Sure, his name doesn’t ring a bell for a lot of cinephiles and doesn’t carry the same weight as internationally renowned Iranian auteurs such as Kiarostami, Panahi or Asghar Farhadi, but consider this: He is the only filmmaker to have had his films shunned by both the Academy and the Iranian committee that submits them!

His first try for gold came back in 2005 with So Close, So Far, a meditative and moving portrayal of a broken father-son relationship. It was far stronger than all five of the eventual nominees but that was before voters in this category had begun to vote for what is actually best. Still, he had every reason to be hopeful in 2012 with A Cube of Sugar, a distinctly Iranian film with a regional flavor that surprisingly won awards at every festival it played at. Coming on the back of A Separation’s win, it was reasonable to expect the raised profile of Iranian cinema to help the film along the finish line. Yet, the Iranian committee submitted the film and boycotted the Oscars later on the same day! Remember that strange story?

So, two years on, Mirkarimi is back with Today, a consensus option that wasn’t exceptionally well received in its home country, but saved the committee a whole lot of political trouble compared to their other choices...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov162014

Interview: Daniel Ribeiro on his Brazilian Oscar Submission

Over at Towleroad I interviewed Daniel Ribeiro on his international LGBT hit The Way He Looks. You can read that interview over there but I thought I'd share a few extra and Oscar-related bits here most of which I didn't include there for space reasons. And since we're among Oscar fanatic friends here at TFE...

Ribeiro, who hails from São Paulo and has seen his very first feature go from a Berlinale Teddy win to a multi-national release and finally Brazil's choice to represent the country at the Oscars.  He's thankfully very relaxed about his Oscar chances. He seems more pleased that Brazil submitted it at all than expectant of anything more. But "You never know" ... 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov132014

Foreign Submission Review: Panama's "Invasion"

Here's Jose to look at the first Oscar submission ever from Panama. They sent a documentary.



On the early morning of December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama. Under code-name Operation Just Cause, the US deposed de-facto leader Manuel Noriega and president-elect Guillermo Endara was sworn into office. Setting a precedent of inexplicable, unjustified foreign invasions under the command of presidents named George Bush, the Panama intervention was notorious for its lack of transparency; while US officials set the casualties tally at 500, local records report up to 7,000 civilians and soldiers who were never heard of again. Even more interesting is the fact that the invasion is simply something people don’t talk about anymore.

[More...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov092014

Second Opinion - Gett & Israel's Oscar Chances

Anne Marie here with a followup to David's review on Israel's Oscar submissionGett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem opens with a lawyer staring at his client sitting just offscreen. The lawyer turns to the judges and begins to plead his client's case: she is incompatible with her husband and wants a divorce.

The scene moves between the three judges, the lawyer, and the woman's husband as they argue this woman's fate, but the camera avoids Viviane as strangers argue over her. When at last the camera cuts to Viviane, (writer/co-director Ronit Elkabetz channeling AFI Fest honoree Sophia Loren's intensity) she seeths in her chair, muted by convention and law. She glances quickly at the camera, and her brief eye contact burns with unvoiced frustration. Considering that her divorce will take almost half a decade to achieve, the frustration will only get more bitter and volcatnic.

As David pointed out, Ronit and her brother/co-director Shlomi have made a social justice film about the absurdities of Israel's archaic, religion-based family law. However, Gett also becomes a study on the harder-to-read nuances of a relationship - Are Viviane and her husband incompaible or abusive? Is he controlling or too lenient? The deceptively simple conceit of trapping the action in the stark courtroom visually emphasizes Viviane's frustration, and allows the motives of everyone who speaks - from Vivianne's hilarious family to her sadly submissive neighbor to her husband and herself. Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz have created a film that works on every level as social commentary, and absurdist comedy, and character study.


Second Take Grade
: A-
Oscar Chances: Though it is Israel's official submission, chances are low. The first two films in Elkabetz's trilogy, To Take A Wife (2004) and 7 Days (2008), were both overlooked by the Academy. At AFI Fest, Gett is currently being overshadowed by star-studded films like Two Days, One Night and buzz -generators Timbuktu and The Tribe. Though audiences that see it are speaking highly of it, Gett's may not have the momentum to land a nomination.

Thursday
Nov062014

Your 2014 animated Oscar contenders

Readers, an apology. Here I am, the Film Experience's resident animation expert, and I'm late with news twice over. First, on Tuesday, the Academy annouced the full list of 20 contenders for Best Animated Feature. Nathaniel prepared a post discussing this development, but wasn't able to publish it before traveling to California. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

As expected we will have a full five-wide Best Animated Feature category this year. It only takes 16 contenders to trigger that and we have 20. This branch is definitely not the most predictable when it comes to nominees -- or even, sometimes winners (remember how competitive the Brave year was?) --  often opting for a few little seen critical and foreign darlings. The internet seems to be rooting for The Lego Movie which is by a significant margin the most popular animated film of the year in the US. What's interesting is that it's uniquely American appeal means that internationally the numbers are much different and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is, globally, the biggest cartoon of the year. It's also probably the frontrunner for Gold but you never know. It's not as undeniable as Toy Story 3 (a universally acclaimed capper to a hugely beloved trilogy that wasn't able to be honored with the competitive Oscar until then since the category hadn't existed).

Disney's Big Hero 6, opening this week, I can't personally see winning the category but it's a likely nominee and, what's more, the short before it called Feast, which tells the tale of a human's love life through his hungry puppy, is a strong contender for the short film Oscar. It was love at first sight for me and I'm not even a dog person.

THE ELIGIBLE 20 (plus 10 eligible animated shorts after the jump)...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov012014

Review: Force Majeure

Amir here to talk Sweden's Oscar submission, now in theaters...

The opening sequence of Ruben Ostlund’s fourth feature, Force Majeure, has an ominous aura to it. On the surface, there is nothing strange about a happy, wealthy Swedish family stopping for a family portrait during their vacation at a posh French ski resort. Yet, as their unseen photographer becomes more assertive with his commands, ordering them to get closer together and forces the corners of their lips upward, something seems amiss. No sign of trouble is yet to be found though, as Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and their white-as-snow children spend the first couple of days skiing together. It is during lunch at the high-end restaurant on the balcony of their hotel that everything falls apart at the seams, revealing the tenuous links that keep this family – or is it every family? – together.

Tomas insists that the loud bang and the ensuing avalanche are controlled by resort patrols, but when panic strikes all diners, it is he who abandons ship first, opting for his own survival as he runs away from his family. When this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pivotal moment in the narrative is over and the snow powder settles, Tomas is overcome with shame but returns to the table as though nothing out the ordinary has happened. For Ebba and the children, however, the gravity of the mistake makes it unforgivable. As the vacation progresses and story of that fateful moment is repeated between Tomas, Ebba and their friends, perceptions change, stakes are raised and bonds are severed and mended again. The avalanche has hit the family like, well, an avalanche; but as Nathaniel correctly pointed out in his review, the analogy only feels forced when articulated by the reviewer, not when the director slyly works in into the film. 

Ostlund tells this story with a remarkable panache for minimalist style and minimalist storytelling. The snow-covered background affords him the possibility to concoct some of the most memorable images and sounds of any film this year, but more impressive is how he replicates the same clean, sparse atmosphere in his storytelling. With a keen eye for small interactions between characters, Ostlund manages to say quite a lot while saying very little. Note one particular instance, where an uncomfortable Brady Corbet (unexpectedly brilliant in a tiny role) is asked to adjudicate between Tomas and Ebba. Ostlund has been similarly preoccupied with awkward group encounters in his previous films, and here, holding the camera as a taciturn Corbet nervously fidgets around in his seat to avoid delivering responses, he proves his knack for capturing truthfully these small but crucial interactions.

Force Majeure is about our perceptions of each other, the image we project of ourselves, and our differing perspectives, and above all it’s about how tenuous all of these things are, how friendships and relationship and even familial bonds can be broken with one moment’s worth of complete idiocy. Then again, how stupid is Tomas’s mistake? Can a single momentary slip break everything? Whose perspective do we accept as the truth? Ostlund toys with these questions without offering definite answers, knowing well that there can be none. If anything is definitively claimed, it’s the vulnerability of man and his position in the traditional family structure. For all its pretensions of power and control, no institution is as fragile and easily bruised as masculinity. Kuhnke’s performance as the man crumbling under the weight of his own self-image and perceived infallibility is perfectly pitched to the film’s sense of humor.

Ostlund’s comedy is dry and detail-oriented. In several instances, it is only the framing of a character, or a split-second cut that causes uproarious laughter. It is an absurd sense of humor, too. Consider that the film’s biggest moment of comedy gold is delivered not by an actor, but by a remote controlled toy drone. Only in the hands of an extremely confident director like Ostlund can such storytelling succeed. After a couple of minor festival hits, Force Majeurehas now entered him among the world’s most exciting filmmakers.

Related
Scandinavian Films
Oscar Submission Charts

 

25 of 83 Foreign Submissions Reviewed
AfghanistanArgentinaAustraliaBelgium,
BrazilCanadaCuba, Czech Republic, Finland,
France, GeorgiaGermany, HungaryIceland,
Israel, ItalyLatviaMauritaniaNorway,
PolandPortugalSweden, Switzerland,
Uruguay, and Venezuela