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Entries in Middle Eastern Films (24)

Tuesday
Sep162014

Amir Sat on a Branch Reflecting on TIFF

Amir here, looking back at the Toronto Film Festival that recently wrapped up.

"Girlhood," superior to Boyhood and one of the best of TIFF 14

You may have noticed that after a few years of covering the festival to various degrees for The Film Experience, I was completely absent from this space for the past ten days, mostly because of a personal decision to enjoy the films without sweating over writing. TIFF is a big festival, maybe the most frantic and hectic in the world, with more choices than one can physically experience over ten days. Nathaniel and I shared so few films from the program’s sprawling lineup, we could have each written about every single thing we saw and you’d never know we attended the same festival. It’s this overwhelming scale that made me want to take a break from reporting, and yet, I feel unsure about how that affected my festival experience.

Writing about films for me is a passion born out of the necessity to articulate my thoughts on the things I watch. Maybe that process of writing makes the films more memorable? Isn’t it so that writing, even about bad films, makes us appreciate good cinema all the more? Without recording my memories, details about this year’s films have fled my mind quicker than ever. My feelings about some of them have been diluted a bit, too. There is something missing, even though I had the best festival experience of my life, meeting more people than ever and watching some terrific films. Maybe this pessimism is just a withdrawal symptom. Let’s stay positive!

As has become something of an unplanned tradition for me – with precedents including Oslo, August 31st and Closed Curtain – my favorite film of the festival came my way on the last day.

MORE...

"The Look of Silence" will be in theaters next summer

Click to read more ...

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

Monday
Jun092014

Linkbusters

The Daily Beast the sexual politics of Ghostbusters, 30 years later
The Wire the career of Lorraine Toussaint before Orange is the New Black 
BFI let's kill the buzzword "hybrid" when it comes to documentaries 
/Film there might be a sequel to Neighbors... which wouldn't surprise anyone
Variety Kino-Lorber has picked up one of Sundance's buzziest titles A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, an Iranian vampire movie, for US distribution (Glenn's review icymi)


In Contention on an new animated contender from GKids, Boy vs. World 
Pajiba celebrates Emily Blunt's greatness as an action star in Edge of Tomorrow
Guardian The director and his muse will try for more Oscars in 2016 with a biopic called Joy about the creator of the Miracle Mop. She was 12 years out of college with 3 children when all this stuff happened. Eventually Jennifer Lawrence will be old enough for the parts David O. Russell keeps casting her in.  
MTV Channing Tatum still super excited about Gambit prospects. Everyone wants their superhero dollars
AV Club rumors abound that it's either Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy or Jared Leto for Doctor Strange. I worry that Marvel has no clear vision of what they want. What connects any of those actors beyond fame? Very different gifts and styles. (I love Hardy as an actor but he seems like a terrible fit for that character)

Off Cinema
Variety on the explosion of new TV shows in summer now that the game has changed
Cinema Blend Steven Spielberg wants to turn Bryan Cranston's tony winning performance into a tv miniseries
Playbill shares the Tony "In Memoriam" segment that strangely didn't air 
Playbill collects all the Tony performances in one place (seriously, it's like no one even needs to watch live tv anymore) 

And finally I just want to say a big congratulations to Peyton Reed for his new gig.  I've been rooting for him ever since the one-two punch of Bring It On and Down With Love, two stylish, absorbing, joyful, funny movies with a real vision behind them. I was bummed when his proposed retro version of Fantastic Four was cancelled in the Aughts and for what: A low-rent generic lousy f/x heavy version? But it's been so long since he was in the news that I figured his career was over. But now he'll direct Ant-Man. There's been a lot of online sniping calling him a hack, even from sites I otherwise like, but those writers should really think before they type and consider his filmography. There's some "for hire" business yes, but he's a good director. It's an unexpected choice but a good one... even if I'm still deeply suspicious of the project considering Wright's departure and Marvel's current game plans.

Monday
Apr282014

I'm not aware of too many things, i link what I link, if you know what I mean

Hello Cinema has a really fascinating conversation about the reception of foreign films, Iranian and elsewhere, in North America referencing interesting movies like A Separation, Leila, Mother of George, Children of Heaven, City of God, and many more
Man, I Love Films on the beloved 40s noir horror Cat People (such a good flick, huh?) 
My New Plaid Pants falls in love with (nsfw) 1966's Georgy Girl with Lynn Redgrave & Alan Bates 
Guardian George Clooney, perpetual bachelor, is engaged! 

ABC Musicians Paul Simon and his wife Edie Brickell arrested for disorderly conduct. The New Bohemians were not brought in for questioning
Theater Mania Grease Live! will be the next TV musical event after The Sound of Music's success. No cast yet (and good luck strying ot out Stockard/Olivia/John) but it's aiming for 2015 
Serious Film my friend Michael liked Match, the Tribeca film starring Patrick Stewart I reviewed yesterday, a helluva lot more than me so it's worth sharing an opposing opinion
First Showing footage from Russell Crowe's directorial debut, The Water Diviner
Empire the WB triples down on director Zach Snyder giving in both the Man of Steel sequel and the Justice League movie  (but why? People have already turned on Man of Steel as a 'meh' which doesn't bode well for enthusiasm next time)
Cinema Blend ...is on rumor control: Matt Damon as Aquaman? 
Towleroad so that's what Teen Wolf's departed cast member Colton Haynes has been up to. (side note: Towleroad has been killing it with the post titles of late)
The Wire revisiting Mean Girls with the woman who wrote the non-fiction / non-comedy book it's adapted from 


Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People" List
The full list has been revealed with these 27 people in the "arts" section: Marina Abramovic, Amy Adams, Diane Paulus, Matthew McConaughey, John Green, Beyoncé, Sheika al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Donna Tartt, Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robin Wright, Binyavanga Wainaina, Miley Cyrus, Robert Redford, Jenji Kohan, Yao Chen, Arundhati Roy, Megan Ellison, Carrie Underwood,  Kerry Washington, and Keegan Michael Key. Weird eclectic lineup. (This last season renewed my love for Amy Adams but I've never thought of her as "influential" per se.) Interestingly enough -- at least for The Film Experience's purposes -- five of the slots are taken up by recent hotly-contested Oscar contests. Best Directors Steve McQueen & Alfonso Cuarón are both accounted for as are the leading "Original Song" nominees Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (from Frozen) and "Happy" Pharrell Williams.  All of the celebrities get tributary write-ups by other starry folk: Oscar whisperer Harvey Weinstein honors film legend Redford; James Franco writes about Abramovic (OF COURSE HE DOES); Naomi Watts talks up Robin Wright who had her best year; and Jessica Chastain has the good sense to worship Megan Ellison...

The Italian Renaissance flourished because patrons like the Medici family sponsored artists and valued their craft. Today the film industry has been blessed with a modern version of the Medicis — a single benefactor who has the utmost respect for cinema: Megan Ellison.
         -Jessica Chastain 

The magazine has multiple covers as most event issues do these days. Who would you have placed on the list that didn't make it?

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 ...