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Best Actress -- Who will be nominated?
Davis? Blunt? Adams? Chastain?

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Entries in Germany (36)

Thursday
Feb252016

Short Film Contenders Pt 1. Who Will Win?

Eric Blume reporting for duty. We hadn't yet reviewed the short film Oscar nominees so I binged all 15 of this week. Many minds and bladders wander away from the Oscar telecast during these three categories.  Even those of us who claim we’ve “seen everything” have rarely seen all of the entries in the three shorts fields. But pay attention because these winners can bring some of the best moments of the show:  remember the 1991 show when producer Debra Chasnoff won for Documentary Short Subject for the General Electric expose Deadly Deception?  She got to the podium and said “boycott GE!” with a cut to Barbra Streisand smiling and clapping with Kevin Costner right behind her decidedly smiling and not clapping.  We Oscar lovers live for moments like this.

There’s a lot of quality among the three categories this year.  Here’s a quick overview as well as thoughts on who might prevail and why on two of the categories.

Documentary Short Subject

Body Team 12 follows the only female Liberian Red Cross member of a team which comes to remove dead bodies during the Ebola outbreak.  It’s the shortest of the five nominees at only 13 minutes, and therefore it doesn’t have a strong driving narrative, nor does it culminate in a larger meaning.  It simply follows the team while they gear up and remove the bodies, interspersed with an interview from its main subject.  It’s focused and lovely in its simplicity, but it suffers from its brevity. 

Pro:  Ebola.  Con: Uncomplicated.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness follows Saba, a Pakastani girl who is shot and left for dead by her father and uncle in an “honor killing” once she marries the young man she loves.  It’d be hard for anyone with a feminist bone or beating heart in them to not get riled up by this story, and it’s told with restraint and intelligence. 

Pro:  Angry.  Con: Angry.

Eight more shorts after the jump

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov142015

AFI Fest: Der Nachtmahr

Kieran wrapping up myAFI Fest in Hollywood.

German visual artist turned filmmaker, Akiz’s Der Nachtmahr immediately announces its desire to confront its audience. The film begins with a super that warns about the strobe effect, which has been known to cause seizures (supposedly) in certain audience members. It then follows it up with a second super that cheekily reads “Anyway…”

For better or worse, Der Nachtmahr's opening scene certainly live up to its lurid promise as we follow high-schooler Tina (Carolyn Genzkow) and her group of friends at a rave party. Booming, assaultive techno music fills the diegesis as we watch Tina and her friends drink, do various drugs and night swim. The flashing, disorienting strobe light effect used in the party scenes is meant to mirror Tina’s fragile mental state, which starts its dramatic decline the night of the party. She begins to see a small, alien-like creature around her house, leading her parents and her friends to question her sanity. [More...]

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Saturday
Oct102015

Interview: Laia Costa Talks "Victoria" and Her Favorite Actresses

Jose speaks with the star of the must-see one-take German drama Victoria (now in theaters!)

 Few performances this year have been as electrifying as Laia Costa in Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria. Playing the title character she combines innocence with determination in thrilling ways. When we first meet Victoria she is dancing the night away at a club unaware that before the night is over she will be part of a high stakes heist with three men she just met. Schipper’s film is notorious because it was shot in a single, uninterrupted take, no digital trickery in this one, although people have been comparing it to 2014’s Best Picture Birdman all over,  “comparisons are inevitable” but “Victoria is punkier”, says Costa when we speak on the phone. “Someone said that everything has already been invented, we can’t invent anything new” she adds laughing.

Talking to the actress you get a sense of the camaraderie she developed with the cast and crew of the movie. She refers to her director and co-star by their last names, and you can tell she has endless anecdotes about the challenging shoot. Costa will be familiar to fans of the television series The Red Band Society, but Victoria is her biggest screen role to date and has already won her the German Film Award for Best Actress (the first time a Spanish actor has won this accolade). Audiences in Spain can currently see her in Carlos, Rey Emperador where she plays Mary of Austria, a process she calls “more artificial, they’re interested in facts about Spanish history not seeking truth in the characters”, but very necessary because as an actress she seeks to learn by working in as many genres as possible.


JOSE: How many Red Bulls and espressos did you need to shoot Victoria?

LAIA COSTA: Not a single one. It was all just concentration (laughs).

JOSE: You’ve mentioned that making the film was like being on drugs…

LAIA COSTA: Yes, because it was a shooting style I’d never done before, which allowed me to live Victoria’s life for two and a half hours, and go on a “trip”. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct012015

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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Wednesday
Sep302015

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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Friday
Sep252015

Beauty Break: Alexander Fehling

In a very stacked weekend for new releases -- 10 of them in total with names as big as Anne Hathaway, Andrew Garfield, Robert de Niro, and Ryan Reynolds -- plus expansions for the mountain climbing spectacle Everest and the hotly buzzing Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro cartel thriller Sicario -- let us draw your attention to one of the smallest, but not the least of the new films and stars. Germany's Foreign Oscar contender Labyrinth of Lies arrives by way of Sony Pictures Classics. Yes, it's a Holocaust drama* but here's something much less sober to contemplate: the beauty of its leading man Alexander Fehling who you may already recognize from Inglorious Basterds (2009) or Young Goethe in Love (2010) and who you'll see very in just over a week on the season premiere of Homeland's 5th season as he joins that series as legal counsel Jonas Happich, Carrie Matheson's new love interest.

But we saw him first, Carrie!  [More...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep192015

TIFF: Anomalisa, Victoria, Youth. Is one pass enough?

Herewith three of the most distinctive films from TIFF. The only problem is: I'm not sure what I think of them. How often does that happen to you at the movies: walking out, unable to answer the question of "did I like it? was it good?" Some movies just refuse to settle quickly. Or, they're hard to parse in the film festival setting (due to seeing so many movies back to back). Which is to say that I'm going to need more time with each of these. All three are familiar and alien at once and, in their dissimilar ways, ambitious. All three are beautifully made... yet at this writing, I have trouble imagining the desire to watch any of them a second time. (Well, no. I'd like to see Youth again)

ANOMALISA (Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman, US)
Though I was a critical holdout on the oft revered miserabilist Synecdoche New York -- in which I learned that I most definitely prefer Kaufmann as a screenwriter than as a director -- I was eager to see this. That anticipation was partially for the novelty aspects. It's a stop motion film with many characters but with only three voice actors. The similar voices serve the plot in an obvious conceptual way when you're watching it (which I won't spoil) but they also indirectly expose the monotony and limits of a singular POV and male gaze, in this case Kaufmann's. The story involves a gray-haired customer service guru of some reknown, deeply unhappy and ready to cheat on his wife during a one night stay in a Cincinatti hotel. There are a few indisputably grand jokes, some stale ones (hotel room keys that don't work. hahaha) and moving beats within the discomfort and laughter. There's even a Jennifer Jason Leigh singing Cyndi Lauper sequence that's sublime. But there's also a feeling of "and...?" about the whole effort and even "why is this animated?" since it only becomes surreal a couple of times. At only 90 minutes this is stretched thin, given that some of the sequences play out in what painfully feels like real time like the businessman's cab to and check in at the hotel. I'm mystified by the "MASTERPIECE!" excitement around it but Kaufman's work is always worth mulling over. 

[Crass Oscar Note as I'm sure Kaufman had no interest in Oscars when he was making this: the critical hosannas Anomalisa was greeted with followed by the news that it would Oscar qualify this year led a lot of armchair pundits to think Inside Out suddenly has real competition for the Animated Oscar. That is not the case. This is too strange and dispiriting and even too dull to take the gold though the critical reception could certainly help it to a nomination if they'd like to acknowledge that animation isn't only for kids -- this one is entirely for adults given its themes and the animated sex scenes.] 

VICTORIA (Sebastian Schipper, Germany)
Victoria (Laia Costa) is a lonely barista from Spain who has spent three months in Berlin. She still doesn't know anyone when one night out dancing she meets drunk but charming Sonne (Frederick Lau) and three of his drunk up-to-no-good friends. Thus begins an unbroken 132 minute long continuous shot as we follow Victoria in real time through her inebriated misadventures. Schipper, who started as an actor (he's in many of Tom Tykwer's films), gets natural work from his entire cast who are all speaking rough English since that's their only common language. You truly feel like you're there with Victoria and her new friends on a neverending night you know you'll always remember. Or you'll hope to forget; parties can't last forever and one foolish decision can lead to another and another and soon you're in way too deep. Schipper and his technical team deserve all the praise they've received for this absolute technical triumph -- not only was the film all shot in one take, it's pulled off without a visible hitch, and it feels artful but effortless too since there are well timed musical breaks of one sort or another (including a phenomenal piano scene) and the lack of cuts only escalates the tension. The film has an inexorable energy since you don't feel you can escape. You're with Victoria and her German buddies until the end. But do you want to be? This is a grueling sit from the tension and eventual violence and the two hour plus running time so it's hard to imagine watching it a second time. Still, immersive film experiences like this are all too rare. 

Caine and Keitel spy on a tryst in the woods

YOUTH (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy)
An easier sit than Sorrentino's Oscar winning The Great Beauty but then it is half as long! Like that film, this one features amazing gilded tableaus and wealthy lost souls. We also get sharp performances from well loved Oscar-winners (Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz) and movie troupers (Harvey Keitel and Paul Dano), all of them getting at least one showcase moment. Youth has some truly vivid sequences / images but does it all cohere? I'm not sure that it does: It's covering a lot of ground very quickly and its many diversions, both fanciful, humorous, or sad are highly uneven. At a hotel/spa retreat for the rich and famous, the characters all come together: Caine is a retired legendary composer staving off requests to conduct again with his personal assistant daughter (Weisz); Dano (in a strange bit of casting) plays a sad movie star who hates his fans and the film he's best known for;  Keitel is a famous director whose work is not what it used to be. Jane Fonda appears in a much-showcased cameo as a legendary movie star diva. (That the movie is about aging showbiz types certainly won't hurt its Oscar chances given the Academy's demographics). Sorrentino seems to be borrowing from Fellini again and a friend of mine groaned about a scene involving a telescope in which Keitel pontificates on the different between youth and old age -- but I personally loved the scene. (Perhaps you have to be middle age or older to feel it though it's easy enough to "get") The movie may be chalk full of faux profundities like that one but better surface beauty and trying to say too much than drab looking movies with only one or two things to say.

 Grades: TBA