Film Bitch History
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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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Entries in Iceland (16)


TIFF: "A White White Day"

by Nathaniel R

In the middle of the stylish grief-stricken Icelandic drama, what appears to be an amateur children's play is airing on the television. The camera drifts to it and stays far longer than is natural for "background" atmosphere in a movie. An astronaut and assorted spacesuit wearing children, have experienced some kind of spacecraft crash. As we zero in on the television, the lone adult onscreen. after finding out that each of his charges are still alive (for now), launches into a hysteric speech about how 'we're all going to die. Including your parents and siblings. Yes, even you.' Salka, an eight year-old towhead granddaughter of the the film's protagonist, watches the television with her cheerio-sucking baby brother, entirely unfazed by this truth. Obviously children's entertainment like this would only fly in Scandinavia or maybe France, where young'uns can also drink wine with their parents and learn their existential nihilism young.  

Which is not to snarkily say that A White White Day is nihilistic. Just that it's pragmatically clear-eyed even when it should be crying. Far from callous and cold, despite the temperatures suggested by that omnipresent fog, thick-maned Icelandic horses, and all the heavy sweaters, the film is warm when it counts. This is a compassionate drama about grief and the sideways behaviour that will out if you keep stifling the main thing...

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Watch at home: Strange things to tell the bees during the Peterloo massacre

Nathaniel R giving you the heads up on what's newly available to screen at home.

High Life - In which Dr Juliette Binoche gets nasty with her patients and Robert Pattinson mopes around in outer space while caring for an infant.
Tell It to the Bees - In which Dr Anna Paquin seduces her new friend Holliday Grainger (fine performance!) in a small homophobic British town in the 1950s. But it's actually a sentimental family movie of sorts. Watch out for the unintentionally hilarious killer bees! 

Also newish on blu-ray and/or DVD: Pet Sematary, The Best of Enemies, LittleAfter, Mojin: The Worm Valley, and Gotham (the complete series). 

iTunes 99¢ Deals
Titles you can rent on the cheap this week include the orgiastic French film Climax, 2016's Best Picture winner Moonlight, 2017's very best film Lady Bird, the new horror classic The VVitch, Bong Joon-ho's popular South Korean monster movie The Host, and the charming Eighth Grade.  They're also offering up Don Jon & Under the Skin in a stealth attempt to remind you of what a genre-hopping ridiculously talented and versatile actress Scarlett Johansson is. Be happy that she shakes off the Marvel shackles very soon (Black Widow is currently filming). Who knows what pleasures await when she can step out of that one genre and into all genres again!

Streaming this week

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Strong Contenders from Iceland, Denmark, and Lebanon

by Nathaniel R

We're now up to 67 entries for Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film category. We're about two weeks away from the official announcement from the Academy which is typically about 90 films long. The latest announcements:

  • Bulgaria - Omnipresent 
    Drama about a man spying on neighbors and employees with hidden cameras. No US distribution yet.
  • Canada - Watch Dog 
    This drama stars French-Canadian actor Théodore Pellerin, who has a romantic scene with Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased. This is a very different performance as he's playing a violent troubled young criminal here. No US distribution yet but playing at Chicago Film Festival next month.
  • Denmark - The Guilty
    A crime drama about a kidnapped woman and a police office. Opens in the US on October 18th.
  • France - Memoir of War
    Sad news for the very passionate fans of French family drama Custody. They went with this WW II drama instead. The film stars Melanie Thierry and Benoît Magimel. In limited release in US theaters now.
  • Iceland - Woman at War 
    You already know I love this oddball environmental activist movie! It's from Benedict Erlingsson, a former actor, who with his second film, confirms that he's Iceland's most exciting new director. Magnolia Pictures will release in the TBA
  • Lebanon - Capernaum
    This is widely expected to be Oscar-nominated. But a word of caution always with the foreign category: there are regularly surprises. Nadine Labaki's previous Lebanese submission Where Do We Go Now? was expected to be Oscar-nominated after winning prizes at Cannes and TIFF's People's Choice Award in 2011...but had to settle for a Critics Choice nomination only when the mainstream awards season hit. Opens in the US on December 14th
  • Macedonia - Secret Ingredient
    Dramedy about a man who makes his father a pot cake and soon has neighbors and criminals after him. I believe this is available on HBO Go but will have to double check.
  • Nepal - Panchayat
    Panchayat refers to an old style of local political systems in South Asian countries in which five elders would settle disputes between individuals and villages. No US distribution yet.
  • South Africa - Sew the Winter to my Skin
    An "existentialist-adventure" set in the 1950s about a Robin Hood like outlaw who steals from white settlers and becomes a hero to the indigenous population. No US distributor yet.

If patterns from past years hold we'll see one switcheroo with a different title than was previously announced and one other title will be mysteriously missing due to disqualification or whatnot. So these charts are accurate from press announcements until they're not should unforseen circumstances occur.

Submissions pt 1 - Austria through Estonia
Submissions pt 2 - Finland through Montenegro
Submissions pt 3 - The Netherlands through Venezuela


Women on the Verge at TIFF: abandoned wives, kindergarten teachers, and activists

by Nathaniel R

Why does anyone make movies about men? No, really. Female characters are inherently more fascinating. That's not only because they're allowed a wider range of feeling onscreen due to repressive gender norms which discourage men from embracing a full range of emotion, but because women's stories are more infrequently told and, thus, fresher. Herewith four recommended movies about women on the verge of either nervous breakdowns, or major crimes. 

Chris has already reviewed these intense dramas about abandoned wives here and here. We'll have plentiful opportunities to discuss them during Oscar season but I just want to second his surprise rave of Wildlife  because it's spot-on. I'll admit, though, that I'm ever so slightly cooler on Widows than I initially thought. I attended the very starry premiere (seriously that cast!) and the screening and movie were both so electric that I was like 'favorite of the fest. wow' But it doesn't linger in quite the way you'd expect given how exciting it is in the moment (it's going to be a big hit). Still, it's the film from TIFF that I'm most eager to see a second time. 

Woman at War is the story of a childless choir director Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in a no-nonsense charismatic turn) who moonlights as a fearless environmental activist in her spare time. Halla has caused enormous problems for a local corporation by knocking out their power again and again. She evades capture with impressive physical skill, careful planning, and paranoid routines; there's a funny recurring shot in which she places her cel phone in a refridgerator before speaking to friends in person about secretive matters. Just as her corporate sabotage is beginning to make real world waves, she learns that she's going to be a mother via adoption proceedings she began years prior. How can she do both?

The Icelandic writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson arrived with Of Horses and Men, an indelible Oscar submission in 2013. This tense, twisty, and provocative sophomore feature is even better and confirms that that was no mere fluke. He's a singular talent, able to imbue sly visual and narrative humor with idiosyncratic depth of feeling. His boldest move in Woman at War, one that risks being a distracting comic gimmick but somehow elevates the picture into the sublime, is an on-camera orchestra. They give the picture a score that doubles as both interior monologue and greek chorus, commenting on but also entangled in Halla's complex possibly disastrous passions. Highly recommended!

Maggie Gyllenhaal is terrific and troubling (no surprise. That's kind of her thing) as a teacher who becomes obsessed with a student. Her favorite little student composes beautiful poems on the spot with little warning that the muse has struck. Fearing that his prodigious talent will wither and die if it's not nurtured she begins to step outside her proper place in the classroom and walks right into his life outside. For all of Mrs Spinelli's madness, the complicating factor is how right she often is when her behavior is all wrong. Despite the fascinating central character there's something that feels incomplete or slight about this intriguing drama that's remained difficult to put a finger on. Regardless, the final scene haunts and a great ending can go a long way. 



The European Film Awards Long List

by Nathaniel R

Maria Bäumer plays the famous 1970s actress Romy Schneider in German biopic 3 DAYS IN QUIBERON

Though we only know ten "official" titles for Oscar's foreign film race so far the European Film Awards often hold clues as to other films that might be submitted. Their 49 "suggestions" for nominations (aka finalists) have been announced. Nominations will follow on November 10th with the ceremony to be held December 15th in Seville, Spain. Those 49 films and our thoughts on their Oscar prospects are after the jump... 

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Thoughts I Had... Amber Heard from Aquaman

You know the drill. Thoughts uncensored in no particular order as they came whilst gazing at the first picture of Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman (2018) or is this from Justice League (2017). Don't know. Doesn't matter...

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