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Entries in foreign films (202)

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 ...

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.

Sunday
Jun012014

First Oscar Predictions of the Year, Complete!

The April Foolish predictions for 2014 are complete! In record time* for June 1st.

INDEXPICTURE | DIRECTOR
ACTRESS | ACTOR  
SUPPORTING ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR 
FOREIGN FILMS | ANIMATED FILMS
SCREENPLAYS | VISUALS | SCORE & SOUND 

BULLISH: I've predicted that Foxcatcher and Interstellar will lead the nominations with 8 nods each with Gone Girl, Mr Turner and Birdman not far behind. I also have high Oscar hunch hopes for Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game.

BEARISH: Though I will readily concede that Unbroken might be a juggernaut, I'm not yet feeling it's as as sure of a thing as many pundits are likely to given the extraordinary amount of Oscar boxes it checks off on paper.  My bearishness is largely because you can argue that Oscar has become less enamored of "traditional / inspirational" material in the past several years - even skipping inspirational Holocaust movies like The Book Thief -- and are quicker to embrace thornier auteurism than they have since the 70s. It's also because Angelina Jolie is a largely untested director whose first feature had a good measure of pre-release media attention only to be totally ignored once it arrived (and I don't mean in terms of Oscar nominations, though that was the case as well). That said if everyone agrees that Unbroken is quite good (nobody has to think it's great) it'll do very well for itself in the nominations. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May272014

Podcast: Cannes Aftermath with Special Guest Guy Lodge

For this quickie edition of the podcast Nick and Nathaniel speak to Guy Lodge on the last day of the festival about his experience, from favorites to disappointments, festival politics and even a little Oscar buzz. He answers the really important questions like: is Kristen Stewart really that much of a revelation in Clouds of Sils Maria?; is Hitchcock's The Birds is a fair comparison for the Hungarian dog movie White God?; Which movie convinces you that Xavier Dolan is the real deal?

00:01 Winter Sleep and the politics of being "overdue"
05:00 Leviathan & Mommy: late bows and multiple raves
07:45 Acting Prizes: Julianne Moore in Maps and Timothy Spall as Mr Turner
13:00 "Foxcatcher is really terrific!"
18:00 Un Certain Regard: The Tribe and White God
22:00 Competition quality and surprises: Party Girl winning Camera D'Or and the media praise for Channing Tatum and Kristen Stewart
28:00 Last words, movies missed.

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments... and while you're at it listen to the last couple of week's of the podcast which were two of my favorite episodes and weirdly less remarked upon than usual.

Cannes 2014 in Review

Tuesday
May272014

Cannes Diary: 3 Men Against The System – Leviathan, Lost River & The Rover

Diana Drumm reporting from Cannes... or rather flying home from Cannes as you read this...

As people, we are defined by how we cope with the world’s cruelty, injustice and unfairness. In a leap of metaphysics, the same can be said about films, being judged by how they handle the subject and in turn how their protagonists handle their conflicts and struggles. At this year’s Cannes, there were more than a few films in the thick of existential waters and questions of morality, with protagonists leading the way against a larger society. In Timbuktu, a farmer and his family grapple with a newly inserted regime to dire results. In Amour Fou, a young poet stakes the life of himself and his “lover” on an escapist higher philosophical notion he’s concocted. In Foxcatcher, an “ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist” attempts to fabricate a more successful legacy for himself and melts down after reality and other people’s free will gets in the way. Here are three more that tackle the issues of male insecurities when faced with a larger, opposing system (from the great to the already infamously bad to the steady).  

Andrey Zyvagintsev’s Leviathan, Ryan Gosling's Lost River, and David Michôd's The Rover after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May242014

Cannes Closing Ceremony - Live Blog

Cannes closes tomorrow and Diana still has a couple more pieces to share with you I believe, but now the prizes are handed out - here are quick notes from the ceremony.

12:45 PM EST the Jury has arrived which means the show is about to begin. Jane Campion is too busy to stand with her jury (at least at this second in the screencap)... and how have I never noticed how toweringly tall Nicolas Winding Refn is (far right)? I love his "who, me?" pose here as if he's aware of the disparity. This image alarmed me so much that I looked up photos of him with Ryan Gosling his 6'2" muse and Refn is yet taller.

12:49 Uma Thurman arrives with Quentin Tarantino and is wearing something like a white winged dove across her bosom... ooh, baby, ooh, said "ooh" ♫. Gorgeous as ever and I've always admired how bold her color choices are. Bright yellow at the Pulp Fiction 20th anniversary screening at Cannes and pure white today.

12:59 Timothy Spall, Mr Turner himself, has arrived which means we know where Best Actor is going (there didn't seem to be much competition for that this year (unlike Best Actress). Best Actor, Oscar Division, will have much more competition.

1:04 Xavier Dolan arrived looking very pleased with himself #whatelseisnew (I kid. Mostly. I enjoy his work. Intermittently he looks nervous but Mommy is definitely winning something)

1:05 Sophia Loren just had some sort of near wardrobe malfunction and is now holding tightly to her gown (perchance she tripped on the train on the steps). MORE...

Click to read more ...

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