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Entries in foreign films (190)


"At the Farm" or "By The Lake", Queer Films Among Best @ TIFF

This article was originally published in my column at Towleroad

The French famously call an orgasm "la petit mort" or, the little death. In two new French-language films playing at the Toronto International Film Festival (in full swing through next weekend) this euphemism forgets to be euphemistic. If you like your sex all mixed up with danger -- you know, the way straight people did during the mainstream erotic thriller years (the Glenn Close thru Sharon Stone continuum) -- consider these films 'must sees' when they hit your city. IF they hit your city. It's tough out there for art films, especially gay ones, as recently discussed in a fascinating piece at IndieWire mapping out the problems.

Prolific twenty-four year old writer/director/actor Xavier Dolan has been a sensation on the festival circuit and in Canada since his award-winning debut I Killed My Mother in 2009. Despite the accolades Dolan has yet to win the Stateside following he deserves, even among LGBT audiences. This is largely because his films are in French and they have had a weirdly hard time making their way onto US screens. I Killed My Mother was famously delayed and delayed and delayed again. Before I received a screener a couple of years ago I was convinced that it was an imaginary movie, dreamt up by journalists to make the rest of us feel jealous that we aren't fabulous enough to party in Cannes with them each May. Dolan's subsequent features, the stylish unrequited love triangle Heartbeats (also known as Imaginary Lovers) and the recently released three hour trans drama Laurence Anyways only increased his wunderkind reputation. His latest TOM AT THE FARM may well be his most accessible but reviewing it presents a challenge because the less you know about it going in the better.

Let's keep it very simple AFTER THE JUMP... 

Click to read more ...


Meanwhile in Venice...

While I struggle to keep up at TIFF (good lord what a learning curve) the Venice Film Festival wrapped up and announced its awards. We didn't share them in a timely fashion. My apologies. The winners were...

Stray Dogs


Golden Lion: Sacro GRA (Gianfranco Rosi)
This surprise winner is a documentary about a famous highway in Rome. Sometimes non-sexy subject matter translates into great films.
Grand Jury PrizeStray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
From the sounds of twitter this was the sensation of the festival though it doesn't screen at TIFF until after I leave town. *snifffle*
Silver Lion (Best Director): Alexandros Avranas, Miss Violence
Best Actor: Themis Panou, Miss Violence
I have a terrible habit of skipping films which then become winners at festivals. This is also playing Toronto but descriptions make it sound like a Greek version of The Virgin Suicides and I didn't bite. In hindsight and with awards under its belt a Greek version of The Virgin Suicides sounds tempting.
Best Actress: Elena Cotta, A Street in Palermo
Luckiest Gown: "Versayce" on Scarlett Johansson
okay that's not a real award but it should be. because dayum...

Marcello Mastroianni Award (Best Young Actor)Tye Sheridan, in Joe
Between this and his wonderful work in Mud, quite an arrival, huh
Best Screenplay: Philomena (Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope)
Dench was rumored to be the frontrunner for Best Actress but the jury thought otherwise... which might be telling since they obviously liked the film.
Special Jury Prize: The Police Officer's Wife (Phillip Groning)
Luigi de Laurentiis Award (Best Debut Feature): White Shadow (Noaz Deshe)
This one is a Tanzanian film (!) about an albino on the run from witch doctors.  

Theres another set of awards called "Horizon" and they chose...

Eastern Boys

Best Film: Eastern Boys (Robin Campillo)
A film about Eastern European young male immigrant hustlers in Paris's Gare du Nord station. 
Best Director: Still Life (Uberto Pasolini)
Special Jury Prize: Ruin (Michael Cody)
Award for Innovative Content: Fish and Cat (Shahram Mokri)
Best Short Film: Kush


Have you ever been to Venice or Toronto? Are they way up on your dream festival list or are you all about Cannes?


TIFF: Asghar Farhadi Returns With "The Past"

Weirdest Cannes best actress win"

Nick whispered to me as the end credits unspooled on Asghar Farhadi's The Past. Co-sign. It's not that Berenice Bejo, who was charming in her international breakthrough in The Artist, is not a good actress and she's certainly a beauty. But at least in the context of The Past she's a blank one. Despite the plethora of information writer/director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) keeps sending us -- e-mails are an enormous plot point -- I'm still waiting to hear anything substantial about the character of Marie, Bejo's woman at its center.

Yes yes, we learn that she still loves her ex-husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), has troubles with her teenage daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet, wonderfully cast) and is cagey about her new relationship to Samir (Tahar Rahim). But we learn all of this very quickly in the movies promising opening scenes in which Marie picks up her ex-husband from the airport and brings him home rather than to a hotel room he asked for. 

But after that... what else?

Farhadi has quite a lot else in store for us... though strangely what seems to take precedence is the intricate minutae of its plot, rather than the characterizations. It's not that we learn nothing about the characters exactly, but that they seem to be serving the intricacies of its many twists rather than the other way around. Like Farhadi's recent masterpiece A Separation, we return again and again to the same seemingly tiny event, although this one is offscreen, and its enormous ripples. To be fair to Berenice we do learn two more thing about Marie. First, she's a bit of a dramatic queen and pushes situations and conversations past their natural end point until they reignite or explode. Second, and long delayed... that she is guilt-ridden about her relationship with Samir without realizing it. But it's too little too late for a film that overextends its welcome and pushes its luck with its intended cartographic drama.

Marie between her men. She does this to herself.

When your favorite touch in a hotly anticipated movie by a brilliant director is the subtle dynamism of its title card ("The Past" is erased by windshield wipers as the ex-lovers are reunited in the opening scene) and the thing you relate to most visually is the endearing confused scowl on a young actor's face (Elyes Aguis is just superbly natural as Fouad, Samir's son) something has gone quite wrong. Thanks to a fine turn from Mossafa, Ahmad the exhusband, is the film's most interesting and well defined character. The movie suffers considerably whenever he (wisely) steps out of his place in this quiet heavy love triangle. Three may be a crowd but Marie and Samir are too blandly conceived to carry the film's heavy heart and complicated plot on their own. C

Podcast a group discussion of TIFF 13: Oscar buzz, our favorite films, and more
Ambition & Self Sabotage on Gravity and Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her
Mano-a-Mano Hallucinations Norway's Pioneer & Jake Gyllenhaal² in Enemy
Quickies Honeymoon, Young & Beautiful, Belle
Labor Day in a freeze-frame nutshell
Jessica Chastain at the Eleanor Rigby Premiere
August Osage County reactions Plus Best Picture Nonsense
Rush Ron Howard's crowd pleaser
Queer Double FeatureTom at the Farm and Stranger by the Lake
Boogie Nights Live Read with Jason Reitman and Friends
First 3 Screenings: Child's Pose, Unbeatable and Isabelle Huppert in Abuse of Weakness 
TIFF Arrival: Touchdown in Toronto. Two unsightly Oscars


Foreign Oscar Updates: 15 Official Submissions & Much More

Another week, another 10+ submissions for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. We're up to 15 official titles now (which means there are about 50 to go). We previously covered Germany's finalist list but they didn't go with the youthful hit comedy Oh Boy after all but with the drama Two Lives, which we highlighted as a strong possibility given its war themes and the presence of Liv Ullman in the cast list.

But the German news is just scratching the surface of what's going on in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race.


"Thy Womb"'s Nora Aunor won several Best Actress prizes at festivals

They've recently announced a list of 8 finalists although, to make things confusing, they are still willing to look at more films that aren't on the list in case of late arrivals to the cinema. But chances are the film will come from this list: Supremo, Boses, El Presidente, Thy Womb (from the acclaimed Brillante Mendoza), Dance of the Steel Bars (inspired by a true story of prison inmate dancing videos going viral), Pinoy superstar Eugene Domingo (Ploning, The Woman in the Septic Tank) might be representing her country again in Tuhog, and finally director Erik Matti has two opportunities for submission since he has two films on the list On the Job and Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles. You may recall I was bummed that The Phillipines missed last year since I loved their entry Bwakaw. They've yet to be nominated for an Oscar. 

"I Am Yours" might be the submission from Norway

I was just visiting earlier this summer! Norway has announced their three finalists for Oscar submission. The Norwegian Oscar committee will be choosing between Arild Østin Ommundsen’s It’s Only Make Believe (Eventyrland) about a woman convicted for shooting two people who is released from prison, Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Pioneer about a deep sea diver, and Iram Haq’s I Am Yours (Jeg er din) about a Norwegian Pakistani woman falling in love. The latter starsOla Rapace (the ex Mr. Noomi who was recently in Skyfall) and Amrita Acharia and I'm hoping to see it at TIFF. None of these directors have been submitted in previous years. Norway won't be announcing their official candidate until September 20th. The land of the midnight sun has been nominated for the Oscar fem ganger (most recently last season with Kon-Tiki) but has yet to win the gold.

Fernanda Montenegro in "Time and the Wind"BRAZIL 
Brazil has not released a finalist list or an official submission but longtime fans of this category (and of The Film Experience which has always had a loyal following in Brazil!) should note that it's very possible that Fernanda Montenegro, Best Actress nominated for Central Station (1998), could be back on Academy screens. The 83 year old acting icon co-stars in the lush period drama Time and the Wind. It’s from director Jayme Monjardim, whose film Olga was submitted in its year, and it’s based on a beloved series of historical novels set in the colonial era. 

They've both released very long finalists lists of 15 and 16 films respectively. Here is Mexico's list and Portugal's (which is harder to read). Any guesses?


BULGARIA Colour of the Chameleon
The Disciple
Boy Eating the Bird's Food
The Notebook
Blind Spot
Debut Submission! Bad Destiny
Soongava: Dance of the Orchids
Borgman  --Though it's been referred to in some articles here and there as the Dutch Oscar entry, this is not official (yet). Just widely assumed
Child's Pose
Ilo Ilo
Juvenile Offender
TURKEY The Butterfly's Dream
VENEZUELA Breach in the Silence

Nepal is sending the lesbian romantic drama "SOONGAVA: DANCE OF THE ORCHIDS

Foreign Film Submissions Pt 1. Albania through Italy
Foreign Film Submissions Pt 2. Kenya through Vietnam

May the best films be nominated, no matter what country they're from! Pass it on to your friends who love subtitles!


Germany @ The Oscars

Germany has a long and trivia-crazy history with the Oscars that didn’t just begin with Sandra Bullock speaking German in her Blind Side acceptance speech or Christoph Waltz, an Austrian-German talent winning two Tarantino-Flavored Oscars for multi-lingual performances. We’ll get to more trivia in a minute but first the German shortlist.  We await their choice for Oscar’s Foreign Language Film submission with curiousity because they’re always a threat for the eventual shortlist. Germany has received 18 nominations and 3 wins over the years. They’re weighing the quality of nine different pictures before deciding. Which will they send our way?

The finalists are…

  • MY BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY Michaela Kezele
    This one skews international - a romance between a young Serbian widow and an Albanian soldier 
  • THE GERMAN FRIEND Jeanine Meerapfel
    A coproduction with Argentina 
  • FREE FALL Stephan Lacant
    A gay romantic drama about two cops
  • THE GIRL WITH NINE WIGS Marc Rothemund
    I don't know what this one is about but I love the title 
  • OH BOY Jan Ole Gerster
    a popular comedy about a drop out university student 
  • RITTER ROST multiple directors
    an animated film 
    This one sounds interesting - a juvenile offender in an "open prison" discovers that his house-mother was one of his victims 
  • NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN von Katrin Gebbe (Junafilm)
    Also known as Tore Tanzt. Will this Cannes entry be too controversial for submission?  
  • TWO LIVES von Georg Maas & Judith Kaufman (DE/NO, Zinnober Film,  B&T Film)
    Also known as Zwei Leben. This film stars Liv Ullman of all people!!! It's about a woman (Juliane Köhler who starred in the German Oscar winner Nowhere in Africa), born to a Norwegian woman and a German soldier who becomes involved in war crime trials. 

It's worth noting that the acclaimed Hungarian German coproduction The Notebook which was suggested to be in the running by some outlets is being submitted by Hungary so it can't be the German submission.

Patrick, a German reader thinks that it would be a surprise if they passed on OH BOY which has been a major hit in Germany at the end of 2012. But since it’s a black and white contemporary film and youth sensation it’s no automatic draw when it comes to appealing to Oscar’s foreign language voters who are, it's important to remember, a volunteer group culled from all the branches. Anecdotally speaking, they skew even older than the typical Oscar demographic because they have to have a lot of free time to attend a least a couple dozen screenings from the long long submissions list (which is broken up into 3 sections so that each member doesn't have to watch all 60+ entries). For Germany, Oh Boy, is also facing the potential problem that The Hunt has for Denmark. It's not "new" anymore... so if the decision-makers have a fresh love...

I wouldn't be surprised if they went with Two Lives (trailer above) given Liv Ullman and Juliane Köhler's Oscar histories but the only director in the nine finalists that's previously been submitted is Marc Rothemund (The Girl With Nine Wigs). His film Sophie Scholl was an Oscar nominee in the 2005 race.

They'll announce their submission on August 27th. What do you think it will be? 

P.S. I promised some trivia so here we go...

a few German winners: Emil Jannings, Luise Rainer and Hans Zimmer

  • Germany's most frequently submitted director is (drum roll please) Wim Wenders who has been submitted only three times (The American Friend, Wings of Desire, and Pina). None of those famous films were nominated in this category. Wenders has better luck with the documentary branch where he's won two nominations (Pina, Buena Vista Social Club).  Several other directors are tied with two submissions each.
  • Germany holds two important "firsts" for the acting Oscars. The first actor ever handed an Oscar was Emil Jannings for The Way of All Flesh. Less than a decade later Luise Rainer became the first actor of either gender to win two Oscars. Since she did that in the late 30s Hollywood lied about Rainer's provenance and claimed she was from Austria.
  • The category that loves Germans most is Art Direction (31 nominations and 7 wins) but weirdly no German has been nominated there since 1972 when Cabaret took home the gold in that category. 
  • Hollywood's favorite German currently, if you subtract Christoph Waltz, is Hans Zimmer a frequent nominee for Best Original Score. [cue: loud Inception bwaaaaaaa  ♫ here]
  • The last German film to win the Oscar was The Lives of Others (2006), one of the most popular winners in this category in recent years.

Foreign Oscar Buzz: Denmark & Argentina

Which films will Denmark and Argentina submit for Oscar consideration this year? Both countries have won the Best Foreign Film prize in the recent past and could compete again this year.

They've announced their three finalists for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission. I think the likeliest of their three finalists is The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg (A Celebration) which won Mads Mikkelsen Best Actor at Cannes a year plus ago as a teacher under attack due to false allegations from a child. It's currently in release in the States which means it's eligible for the Oscars in general if not for this specific category (which requires official submission... and each country may only choose one film). The major obstacle to its submission might be its lack of newness. It played in Cannes during last year's eligibility period (Oct 11- Sept 12) but not in its home country (making it ineligible for selection last year) and opened within the 2013 window in Denmark making it eligible for submission this year. Got it? But still... it could end up feeling like old news to the Danish powers that be if they vote anything like our Academy who have that notoriously short term "what did I just see?" problem. If the Danes vote for their current hot property they could go with either The Act of Killing, the very buzzy documentary (also in Stateside release right now) about the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s or Northwest from director Michael Noer (who co-directed A Hijacking) a crime thriller about a man named Casper who is moving up in the criminal world selling stolen goods.

Regardless of what they choose, Denmark is popular with Oscar voters. A Royal Affair (2012) was their 9th nominee in the category and they've already won three times (back to back wins in the 80s with Babette's Feast and Pelle the Conqueror and a win for Susanne Bier's In a Better World recently) 

This South American country has been nominated six times and won twice. The first statue came for 1985's arthouse hit The Official Story. Argentina won again just a few years ago with Juan José Campanella's crime thriller The Secret in Their Eyes starring Ricardo Darín, who pops up regularly in the country's submitted films. Both Campanella and Darín could factor in again though not together this time.

Darrin stars in Thesis of a Homicide, another crime thriller, and Campanella directed the animated hit Metegol (trailer embedded below). Darín might have competition for familiar Argentinian face this year though since Diego Peretti stars in two films: Wakolda (from the director of the Oscar submitted XXY) about a family who lived with Nazi war criminal/physician Josef Mengele without realizing who he was and La Reconstruccion about a lonely man on a trip. My current guess is that it'll be Wakolda that gets Argentina's vote, both for the subject matter and because most countries tend to repeat directors in their submissions over the years. [Thanks to reader Marcos for his thoughts on these possible submissions.]

P.S. For what it's worth though only one animated film (Israel's Waltz With Bashir) has ever been nominated in the Foreign Film category, that doesn't stop countries from trying with their submissions.


Foreign Oscar Buzz: Israel, Hungary and Romania

Soon we'll be inundated with Foreign Film Oscar Submission news but for now news from three countries to get us started. The Oscar Charts will be up this weekend for this always diverse and exciting (if you're paying attention) category. [Thanks to Daniel, Yonatan and A.D. for the tips]

S#x Acts

Israel has been on a hot streak with Oscar with four nominations in the past six years so news of the Ophir Awards is always important. This narrows the field for which film will be their official submission since they go with the Ophir winner. Seven films are in the running for their Best Picture (The Ophir).

The frontrunner is Bethlehem (12 nominations) a drama about the Arab- Israel conflict which focuses on three characters: An Israeli secret services agent, his teenage Palestinian informant and the informant's older brother, a commander of the Al Aqsa Martyr's brigade. Other nominees include S#x Acts, a drama about a transfer student who improves her social status via the boys at her new school. Sukaryot is about an Israeli-Arab entrepreneur wants to open a chain of candy store competing directly with an Israeli corporation. Magic Men is a dramedy about a Hasidic Jew who joins his magician father on a trip to Greece to find the man who saved his father during the Holocaust. And the soul comedy is Hunting Elephants about a child's adult relatives who set out to rob a bank. (Patrick Stewart is one of the leads so perhaps this will have too much English dialogue to qualify?) Far less likely are two films which only scored Best Picture nominations at the Ophirs: White Panther about a young Russian who seeks refuge from street gangs in a local boxing gym and I Am Bialik, a mockumentary about a man who claims he's descended from Israel's national poet.

Tough Romanian cinema has been hot with critics for nearly a decade but has yet to catch on with the Academy, who (generally speaking) prefer warmer films. Can Child's Pose, their 2013 submission, break through? The Golden Bear winning film stars the acclaimed Luminita Gheorghiu who previously appeared in two of the country's most important exports (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Death of Mr Lazarescu).

Luminita in "Child's Pose"

The Guardian synopsizes the contemporary political drama like so:

the film tells the story of a mother's desperate and often illegal attempts to save her son from prosecution after he knocks down and kills an impoverished teenager...

The official submission is The Notebook/A nagy füzet which was the Karlovy Vary winner. Hungary had a solid Oscar run in the 1980s but has had difficult finding traction since and especially in the past couple of decades when they've made very daring oddball choices for their representative films. This new one appears to be more in Oscar's wheelhouse since it's about two young boys ripped from their parents during World War II.

For whatever reason, Oscar has historically been very kind to narratives about children in wartime in this category, not just because at least a handful of films that fit that genre seem to be submitted each year but because the tear-jerking obviously transcends culture and language barriers. This one looks discomfitingly unsentimental though with children hardening themselves to atrocities. 

If you've seen any of these at festivals, have your say in the comments. Which country are you most excited to see land a nod this year?


We Link Alone

Big Screen
BuzzFeed for your 4th of July Hangover... 18 ways Drop Dead Gorgeous makes you proud to be an American
Vimeo Best Supporting Visual Effects? in The Great Gatsby
Towleroad Tilda Swinton showing solidarity with Russian gays at the Kremlin
Deviant Art Claire Hummal is rethinking Disney Princesses with more period-accurate wear 

Amiresque on The Bling Ring
Under the Radar talks with Pedro and cast on I'm So Excited 
i09 for those who are not spoiler-averse "10 great movies where the heroes are doomed" 
Guardian here's a list topic I've literally never seen before... "the 10 greatest Arab movies"

Small Screen
Gold Derby Can Mad Men ever turn around its Emmy problems?
Vulture why hasn't ABC Family renewed OR cancelled Bunheads? Is there any hope for one of the best shows on TV to return? And if they wanted to capitalize on the acclaim, why on gods green earth didn't they submit it for Emmy consideration? It's all very baffling.

Today's Curiousity
Salon interviews Miranda July on her new celebrity-heavy forwarded email project "We Think Alone" with personal outbox appearances from Kirsten Dunst, Lena Dunham and more.



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