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TWO OPINIONS ON MAPS TO THE STARS
Nathaniel's Julianne Spazzing & Glenn's Cronenberg Finger Wagging 

"There is a great movie in Maps of the Stars and that is the one Moore stars in, not the one the screenplay insists in bringing to the front." - Mr Goodbar

"If I had to guess why Cronenberg went with a largely "invisible" or even non-style style, I'd say it has to do with his approach to the narrative, which is kind of a bait and switch, setting us up for a hollywood satire and then giving us a final act that plays more like a myth or a fairy tale." -Roark

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Entries in foreign films (195)

Tuesday
Aug122014

Foreign Film Oscar Watch: The Ophir Nominations

Israeli's Oscar equivalent, The Ophirs, announced their nominations yesterday and here are the Best Picture nominees, courtesy of friend of TFE Yonatan. One of these six films will surely be submitted as their Oscar hopeful.

Dana Ivgy & Nelly Tagar star in "Zero Motivation"

The Farewell Party - Dramedy set in a retirement home and it's the nomination leader with 14
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Absalem - Drama about a woman struggling legally to get a divorce. This is the film we were talking about a couple of days ago when the foreign charts went up. It's co-directed by and stars the great Ronit Elkabetz (Late Marriage). It won 12 nominations. Music Box films (who had such a huge success with Poland's Oscar submission Ida this summer) have the distribution rights but no US release date has been announced.
Is That You? - A film projectionist searches for the love of his youth after losing his job
Next To Her - 9 nods for this  drama about two sisters, one of them is mentally challenged
Yona - Biographical Drama about a famous Israeli poet. 9 nominations. The director Nir Bergman is the only one from this group who has previously been selected for Oscar submission (Broken Wings in 2002)
Zero Motivation - This debut feature from director Tayla Lavie was the winner of the Tribeca Film Festival this year and is nominated for 12 Ophirs. Zeitgeist has distribution rights in the US and is planning a December release. It's a military comedy about female soldiers starring Dana Igvy who is nominated for Best Actress AND Supporting Actress as she's also in Next to Her. Someone's having a good year

Dana Ivgy & from "Next to Her" at Cannes. Photograph by Cécile BurbanWhich do you think they'll choose for their Oscar submission? Have any of you Israeli and/or international festival-going readers caught any of these films? Israel's last two submissions Fill the Void and Bethlehem missed nominations and even the January finalist list (kind of a surprise with the former) but the Academy's mostly been very receptive to Israeli film in recent years with nominations in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 so watch their submission closely!

Oscar Charts

Friday
Aug082014

Breaking: The Foreign Oscar Charts Have Arrived!

I've been chart happy this week as you can see. The Oscar charts were all updated two days ago. And now the Foreign Language Film Submission Charts - all three of 'em - are up. Have to be ready when September hits, you know!? The three foreign film submission charts are now up:

 

 

You can always access the Oscar charts from the pulldown menu on the navigation bar. (But you must know that already.) Only the first chart has a lot of information (read: speculation) since only one country has officially announced. That would be Hungary's tense critically lauded allegory White God. But the charts will grow. UPDATE: Turkey and Poland have all announced. We have a race!

For now let's talk about a few random countries and films that might come into play...

CANADA (7 nominations & 1 win)
Coming off his coronation of sorts at Cannes Xavier Dolan's Mommy seems like the most obvious choice but it's not the only choice. In fact, Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm is also eligible; that one is damn prolific. Canada has only submitted Dolan once with I Killed My Mother but they've had a strong string of contenders and actual nominees lately. Denys Arcand, Canada's favorite son when it comes to Oscar (4 submissions, 3 nominations, 1 win) also has a new film out called An Eye For Beauty so who knows. More Canadian features are coming - there's a whole sidebar at TIFF of course.

CZECH REPUBLIC (9 nominations & 3 wins)
They have several options but the one I'm most intrigued by is called Hany. Watch this trailer [NSFW]. I'll tell you why after you do...

It was shot in a one long continuous take a la Rope (well mostly) and Russian Ark! And considering that, it looks fairly complicated, well populated, lively and ambitious. I really want it to be their submission because a) that's cool and b) then we can compare it to Birdman which is reportedly edited to look like it was all shot in one take.

 

ISRAEL (10 nominations)
From 2007 through 2011 Israel was hot-hot-hot with foreign language branch voters securing four of its ten nominations. Israel is the most nominated country never to have won the Foreign prize (Mexico & Poland are also oft-nominated without a statue to show for it). The frontrunner for their submission this year appears to be Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem starring and co-directed by Israel's awesome movie star Ronit Elkabetz (of Late Marriage, Or, and The Band's Visit fame). But when the Ophir nominations are announced in a few days we'll know more about its competition. You have to score at the Ophir Awards to be their submission.

Any guesses as to what your favorite country is submitting this year?

 

 

 

Monday
Aug042014

Studio Ghibli is taking a break

Tim here. The story over the weekend as far as popcorn movies go might have been the monstrous over-performance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but for those of us who like a little more personal artistry and a little less big-budget sizzle out of our movies, Sunday's biggest news was the apparent revelation by Toshio Suzuki, general manager of Japan's Studio Ghibli, that the company is ceasing to produce animated films.

Or maybe not. The internet, in its glorious need for news, News, NEWS, has perhaps jumped the gun on some ambiguous words that have slightly different weight in Japanese than in English. They're merely talking about restructuring and re-evaluating their business and production strategies in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. That certainly could mean that they're going to close; it doesn't mean they've closed yet (though that "yet" might well be nothing but diplomacy talking). What is certainly the case is that following the newly-released in Japan When Marnie Was There, Ghibli has no future plans involving animated features. So even if it's not The End, it's not a very good day for lovers of animation or just top-quality world cinema.

While we stew and wait for more news on the Ghibli front, I'd like to invite everyone to share their favorite movies from the studio. I'll start off: if I wanted to showcase to a newbie the breadth of Studio Ghibli's artistry (and today of all days, that's exactly what I want to do), these would be the five movies I'd pick:

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - a generous children's fable filled with a love of nature
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - a deadly serious examination of the human cost of war
  • Porco Rosso (1992) - a clever spin on an animal fable and loving tribute to the beauty of flight
  • Whisper of the Heart (1995) - a quiet, beautiful story of adolescent curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Spirited Away (2002) - the perfect gateway drug: bold visions, fearless storytelling, impeccably clear characters

What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films? And how sad are you going to be if this really is the end?

Wednesday
Jul302014

Bergman's Ghosts

This is TFE's late entry into the Hit Me With Your Best Shot gallery of Cries and Whisper's finest moments

Ingmar Bergman will never die. We need not be literal about this. Yes, the great Swedish auteur passed on in 2007 but his rich inimitable* filmography is not of the corporeal so much as its of the spirit (however despairing) or at least the deep recesses of the psyche, if you'd care to differentiate. In collaboration with fellow geniuses cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actress Liv Ullman he captured many of the greatest close-ups in the whole of cinematic history. In a Bergman/Nykvist/Ullman close-up it's not the eyes that are the window to the soul so much as the face as the soul, fully visible even when its bathed in shadow. 

Yet even revealed it's still unknowable. 

best shot

When I first saw Cries and Whispers in college while pursuing my own self-guided lessons in film history, I was astonished by the film's signature move. Each of the  three "living" characters, if you can call them that, the sisters Maria (Liv Ullman) and Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and the family's housekeeper Anna (Kari Sylwan) are given bookend close-ups. These closeups house memories or dreams or scenes from their point of view. The closeups fade to red and are accompanied by indecipherable whispering. The impression isn't as simple as a haunting; Agnes (Harriest Anderson), who isn't afforded this expressive close-up luxury is still alive when this first starts happening. This unfathomably perfect artistic motif has already removed the film from the literal by the time Agnes dies at which point the film becomes even more incredible, disturbing and profound. What is haunting these women? Any answer feels correct whether you've imagined regrets, the abyss of death, life itself, or the living nightmare of toxic relationships.

See everyone else's choices for "Best Shot" here...

For completists of if you're curious I've included the two runner up shots I considered as "Best" after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul082014

Halfway Pt. 4: Top Ten Movies of 2014 (Thus Far)

For today's Tuesday Top Ten it's your last peek at Nathaniel's top ten list for 2014 until the official one at year's end. Only films that have already played theaters in regular release are eligible hence endearing indies like Happy Christmas (currently On Demand) or instant classics like Love is Strange or next weekend's highly raved openers (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Boyhood) cannot yet apply. Herewith my ten favorite pictures of 2014 thus far since we've already looked at favorite sights and favorite sounds. 

You should see all of these movies. How many will stick around for the official top ten of 2014? I haven't a clue. That's half the excitement of drawing these invisible lines in the sand and waiting with hot anticipation for the rest of the year's wonders

TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014'S FIRST HALF
(ALPHA ORDER)

BEGIN AGAIN (John Carney) 104 minutes
Weinstein Co | June 27th| Box Office Rank of 2014 (At This Moment) #85 with $1.7 million

Like a new favorite song you can't stop playing, it's hard to even suss out why it's so damn loveable. My hunch is that its ephemeral endearments are powered by the combo of writer/director John Carney's sincere musicality (he captured lightning in a bottle with Once) and Keira Knightley's wonderfully relaxed but emotionally astute work as an abandoned musician who genuinely doesn't care about fame and fortune but has lots of love for music and people... whether or not they deserve it.

CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 (Anthony & Joe Russo) 136 minutes
Marvel/Disney | April 4th | Box Office Rank of 2014 (At This Moment) #1 $257 million

The best superhero film since the genre's peak in 2004 with that Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles double-whammy and the best yet from Marvel Studios. I've probably raved enough this year but practically everything works from performance to action to theme and especially the firm sense of identity and character work at its core (here's a fine piece on that). That sense of self saves this superhero film from the generic problems that plague its genre. [Review]

CHILD'S POSE (Calin Peter Netzer) 112 minutes 
Zeitgeist | February 19th |  Box Office Rank of 2014 (At This Moment) #170 with $97 thousand 

Romania's 2013 Oscar submission continues the super annoying but enormously familiar trend of gambling its entire US release strategy around an Oscar nomination that doesn't materialize. Which is a pity since gold statues aren't everything (Ida proves that memorable foreign films don't need any awards buzz at all to find their natural fanbases but more on that in a minute) and this arguably overripe melodrama about a rich bitch trying to cover-up her son's crime is gripping. [Review]

alien invasions, travelling nuns, and mouthy toys after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun122014

Some Came Linking

Vulture dreams up sequels for The Fault In Our Stars. We'll obviously take the Laura Dern one
The Awl "The Tortured History of Entertainment Weekly" - god I was so in love with that magazine when it debuted in the 1990s. The first issue I remember buying was #5 with Jamie Lee Curtis on the cover for Kathryn Bigelow's Blue Steel
Pixar Times Pixar teases the first five minutes of Inside Out their June 2015 release
Theater Mania Laura Benanti auditions for Peter Pan Live

Boy Culture RIP supporting actress Martha Hyer, Oscar-nominated for Some Came Running (1958) 
Kenneth in the (212) teases a new stage production with the music of the The Go-Gos?
Comics Alliance a giant statue of Spider-Man in Korea is causing a stir thanks to its Spider-Manhood
Empire there's a new trailer for The Boxtrolls
Variety expects crazy ladies to dominate the Guest Actress race at the Emmys 
THR has a lengthy cover story on the suicide of the director of Searching For Sugar Man 

Foreign Film Oscar Watch
The Great Beauty, Italy's Oscar winner just lost its home-field Oscar race to a film called Human Capital which also won three acting gongs. Human Capital wasn't eligible for submission by Italy last year (since it hadn't yet opened by the cutoff date) so it could well be Italy's submission this year.

P.S.
I'm not sure how I missed this excellent interview with Lori Petty over at The Daily Beast on Sunday but it's a must read if you have any affection at all for Lori or the 1990s when she just kept doing her inimitable thing all over now classic movies like A League of Their Own, Point Break, and... well, the interview weirdly neglects Tank Girl but what can you do? She talks working with Jodie Foster, Madonna, discovering Jennifer Lawrence and how she got her cameo part in Orange is the New Black despite definitely being off the radar in recent years. 

Lori Petty & Naomi Watts in Tank Girl (1995)

Why do you think the roles started drying up after Tank Girl?

Well, because I was thirty-something and I hadn’t married my agent, married any guy co-stars, or gotten fake titties or Botox. I never wanted to be a bombshell; I wanted to be an actor. I would much prefer to be a woman than a man, but if I was a dude, maybe I’d have Johnny Depp’s island because women in this industry after a certain age definitely don’t get to do Pirates of the Caribbean. Poor Keira [Knightley], they even airbrushed huge tits on her on the poster, and she’s flawless! I was trying to play football with a baseball, and you can’t really do that.

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