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Entries in Middle Eastern Films (20)

Sunday
Jan262014

Sundance: This Girl Walks Alone Into Greatness

From the Sundance Film Festival here is Glenn on 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'

Despite the high profile of vampire movies in the past decade, very few of them have been strong enough to justify their budgets and mainstream success, let alone done enough to warrant any sort of long-term attention. Buffy the Vampire Slayer concluded in 2003 and since then TV series True Blood and The Vampire Diaries have attempted to pick up where Joss Whedon left off. On the big screen, however, the only vampire property to strike any form of sustained reverence is Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish take on vampire lore, Let the Right One In – and, depending on who you ask, the American remake, Let Me In, too – although I did enjoy the Spierig Brothers’ high-concept Daybreakers as well (I didn’t care for Stake Land, but I hear people like that one, too). So it’s not only a surprise, but an genuine delight to report that Ana Lily Amirpour’s stark beauty, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is not just great movie, but should be considered an instant entry into the cannon of vampires on cinema.

With perhaps the most literal title of the festival, Amirpour’s American-made yet Iran-set film takes place in the fictional town of Bad City. A lawless wasteland of a location where a local pit is home to the rising number of dumped, abandoned corpses, and where thugs and pimps undertake their criminal enterprises is broad daylight. Oil drills chug and churn on the city outskirts sucking the land's resources even more than Bad City's low life residents, and a teenage boy takes advantage of a local drug dealer’s death by stealing his stash and moving in on his territory. Bad City, undoubtedly inspired at least in part by Sin City, is a town that both literally and figuratively is being drained of blood; where people don’t so much live and merely exist. It exists in a seemingly parallel world, a twilight zone of evil and it's the perfect place to go unnoticed. 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan242014

Sundance LGBT Greats: "Love is Strange" & "Appropriate Behavior"

Sundance coverage continues with Nathaniel on two terrific new LGBT films. (This article was previously published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad)

Alfred Molina & John Lithgow get hitched in Love is Strange's opening scene

I'm popping in, once again, from the snowy mountains of Park City, Utah, where I've been attending the 30th annual Sundance Film Festival. It kicked off the day of the Oscar nominations a week ago and in my golden-statue-mania I keep imagining it would have felt more festive had it coincided with Robert Redford's first Oscar nomination in 19 years for All is Lost. But it was not meant to be. Still Redford's legacy lives on in the most celebrated American film festival. Two of the best films at Sundance 2014 are LGBT films. Hopefully they'll both hit theaters or on demand or however we're watching movies next, and very soon.

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR is the perfect Iranian bisexual hipster coming-out comedy that you didn't know you needed or even wanted. But it's really good and really funny. The absurdly talented Desiree Akhavan (who some of you may know from the lesbian web series The Slope) wrote, directed and stars in the film as Shirin. She's a sharp-tongued bisexual twentysomething who is reeling from a breakup with Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) her activist vanilla girlfriend, and acting out sexually in Brooklyn.  

More on Appropriate and the possible awards hopeful Love is Strange

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec192013

Interview: Asghar Farhadi on Globe Nominee "The Past"

Amir and Asghar Farhadi @ TIFFAmir here, to share with you my fantastic experience of interviewing the director of The Past, A Separation and About Elly. About a decade ago, when Asghar Farhadi made his first feature film after years of successful theatre and TV work, even the most optimistic fan of Iranian cinema could not imagine his stratospheric rise to International Auteur status in such a short span of time. It is heart-warming for an industry that has only gained international prominence in the past two decades to see one of its sons holding an Oscar statue. Farhadi’s popularity comes at a critical point for Iranian cinema, when festival presence is not as regular as it was in the nineties and several major filmmakers have had their careers stalled for political reasons.*

Farhadi's follow up to the Academy Award-winning classic A Separation, The Past will be representing Iran in the Best Foreign Film Oscar competition and was just nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. Farhadi's latest is a Paris-set melodrama starring two recognizable stars in The Artist's Berenice Bejo (Cannes Winner Best Actress) and Tahar Rahim as well as Iranian superstar Ali Mosaffa.** In the film, Bejo plays Marie, a French woman married to Ahmad (Mosaffa) who is in custody of their children after a breakup. When Ahmad receives a letter from his wife to return to Paris to finalize the divorce, he is confronted with Samir (Rahim), Marie’s new boyfriend, himself married with a son to a woman in a coma. And that’s just the beginning of the complications in this romantic triangle.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov112013

Oscar Contenders Stack the Decks at Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Glenn here. Rarely discussed by Oscar commentators for reasons unknown to me are the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Held annually on the Gold Coast in Australia, these awards recognise, well, cinema from Asian and Pacific regions. This year's batch of contenders are from a typically diverse group of nations with several high profile Oscar contenders in the mix. Amongst this year's roster of nominees are the foreign language submissions from Palestine (Omar), Iran (The Past), Saudi Arabia (Wadjda), China (Back in 1942), Hong Kong (The Grandmaster), Singapore (Ilo Ilo), New Zealand (White Lies), South Korea (Juvenile Offender) and Kazakhstan (The Old Man) as well as films amongst the long lists for animation (The Wind Rises) and documentary (The Art of Killing). Just imagine if Japan had chosen Like Father Like Son and India had chosen The Lunchbox!

Some history and this year's nominees after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct022013

NYFF Must-See: "The Square"

TFE's 51st New York Film Festival (Sep 27-Oct 14) continues with Jose discussing The Square.

 

Jehane Noujaim's The Square is one of those rare movies that provoke physical reactions in their audiences. Watching it in a pretty much packed room, it was strange to listen to gasps, "ohmygod"s and clenching teeth in the darkness. All of these reactions were caused by brutal images of torture and violence in which we see regular people being deprived of their freedom, their dignity and even their lives. Noujaim's documentary is a chronicle of the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo as seen through the eyes of key players of the revolution including a young idealist, a member of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, a folk singer and actor Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner, United 93).

The filmmaker takes us through the most significant moments of the uprising and we see how with the people's sheer will and persistence three regimes are overthrown within less than a year. Noujaim cleverly structures the film so that more than being a journalistic piece, it also works as a seamless drama. "As long as there's a camera the revolution will continue" says one of the main character and we see some of the characters change political positions, suffer horribly at the hands of the military and even become enemies of sorts once they discover what might be the film's most shattering revelation: that in the end it's always the people fighting each other.

Having grown up in one of the few countries in the American continent where coups still occur, The Square hit perhaps a little too close to home; where I ought to have been inspired, I was sadly reminded that democratic changes often take decades to finalize. The film as such is a rousing call to action that ought to intimidate totalitarian regimes by simply reminding them that people will fight for what they believe in.  For me personally, it was a bittersweet experience that lifted my spirit, brought it back down and then sent me home complete pissed off. This is what political cinema should be about, right?

The Square won the Audience Awards at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. It plays exclusively on 10/03 and it's a true must-see.