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William Holden in Picnic

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Entries in Middle Eastern Films (45)

Sunday
Oct082017

Nick's Foreign Film Take, Pt 1: Sheikh Jackson, First They Killed My Father...

by Nick Davis

There’s niche-marketing, and then there’s micro-targeting, and then there’s saying to your friend Nathaniel, “I hope you’ll still keep an eye out for Shahrbanoo Sadat’s Wolf and Sheep, even though Afghanistan didn’t select it as their Oscar submission.” We really do live in a weird bubble, but that is why one is grateful for The Film Experience, where folks are all the same kind of different as you. And as we all know, this site has been a longtime devotee of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in all stages of curation and competition. So, seizing the opportunity of a sympathetic audience, and amidst a season where many of the 84 movies put forward by their home countries as Academy Award contenders are floating around at festivals—big and small, rural and urban, American and elsewhere—I thought I’d weigh in on the titles I’ve caught.

Argentina, Zama
It’s an amazing vote of artistic confidence for Argentina to choose Lucrecia Martel’s deeply demanding, deeply rewarding colonialist-bughouse period drama as their contender. They passed over all three of her previous features as their submission, and as always, they had plenty of viable possibilities this year, including Santiago Mitre’s The Summit, an absorbing drama of North and South American political machinations. That movie’s somewhat televisual style might have made it palatable to some voters. Zama, by contrast, is as cinematic as they come. In fact, “they” don’t really come like this: a movie almost without establishing shots or hand-holding narrative cues, aggressive with its weird ambient sounds and literally eccentric frames. The movie telegraphs the protagonist’s escalating madness but without letting him go Full Aguirre and without entering the kind of outsized, Lynchian vortex that unmistakably makes the point: it’s easy to watch and think that you, not Zama, are failing to keep up. This seems like a Shortlist prospect with Oscar at the very best, but it’s also guaranteed to be among the year’s most extraordinary movies. Talk about a summit!
My grade:

Austria's Happy End, Cambodia's First They Killed My Father, and Egypt's Sheikh Jackson are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep142017

TIFF: "The Breadwinner" is a visual stunner

Our ongoing adventures at TIFF

 One of the most exciting animation houses in the world is Ireland's Cartoon Saloon. In its early years its largely been a showcase for co-founder Tomm Moore who made Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea (both deservedly Oscar nominated). Now Nora Twomey, also a co-founder, steps into the director's chair for their third feature, another visual stunner. (If you haven't seen their films yet get to it. They're doing the consistently best non-Pixar derivative animation on earth now that Studio Ghibli has slowed way down.)

This time we depart Ireland for an adaptation of The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis's bestseller about an Afghani girl who disguises herself as a boy to provide for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban. Without a male relative to escort them around the city they're trapped in their home with no way to earn money or go shopping...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Sep112017

Two more Oscar submissions announced

The foreign Oscar submissions keep on coming. Egypt will be submitting Sheikh Jackson, a potential crowd pleaser about an Islamic cleric undergoing an identity crisis when he flashes back to his Michael Jackson obsessed youth when Michael dies. Egypt has yet to be Oscar-nominated but who knows.

A more likely nominee on paper, given the history, is Poland's Spoor (originally called Pokot) a murder mystery directed by Agnieska Holland. The film about an animal rights activist that becomes involved in a string of mysterious crimes has been getting interestingly mixed reviews. Holland first came to international fame (and Oscar love) with her big arthouse hit and WW II drama Europa Europa (1990) and was recently in the hunt again with the foreign film nominee In Darkness (2011). You could argue that she's Oscar's second favorite Polish director (of those who kept making movies in Poland, that is) after the late legendary Andrzej Wajda who was up for the foreign film Oscar four times and eventually received an Honorary.

The charts are here

Monday
May082017

The Furniture: The Salesman Crafts His Own Stage

"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail. Here's Daniel Walber...

Asghar Farhadi's Oscar winning The Salesman begins with a set. The opening credits appear over the quiet stage of a small Tehran theater, nearly ready to debut a new production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. We see the bed before the actors who will lie in it, neon lights illuminated for an empty house. It is a quite literal setting of the stage before the drama begins.

It’s not a play adaptation, but it often feels like one. There are few locations and the cast is small. And, as in many play adaptations, the production design does a lot of heavy lifting...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb282017

Links: Oscar Goodies Elsewhere

Tom & Lorenzo Janelle Monáe owns everything and wore it all out last night
Vulture theories on why Moonlight won
AV Club "Why does Nicole Kidman clap like that and will she stop it please?" LOL

Deadline Iran and France praise Asghar Farhadi's Oscar win 
The Hill the State department does too but then quickly deletes the tweet 
Out Michael Musto on queer moments from the broadcast and Brokeback payback
Vanity Fair fashion transformations from the Oscars to the after parties 

Oscar Snafus
HuffPo This is interesting. Turns out HuffPo posted an article BEFORE the Oscars about what would happen if the wrong winner was read out on Oscar night and the procedure that would follow. Not everything lines up with what happened Sunday
Slate reviews the tape to illustrated what happened when during the Best Picture mix-up which is what I said I wanted done but knew I didn't have the strength to do (in this piece on the Oscar's own dream ballet)
Variety the other snafu at the Oscars during "In Memorium". Whod'a thunk that The Piano (1993) woud resurface in a huge gaffe kind of way with Oscar mixing up its producer Jan Chapman and its Costume Designer Janet Patterson? 

Exit Trivia
Thanks to THR's Scott Feinberg for uncovering this. The La La Land / Moonlight envelope fiasco was the second time in history that this happened. The first was for the 1963 Oscars when eventual Best Picture winner Tom Jones was named as the Best Original Score winner. But the winner was actually Andre Previn for Irma La Douce. Sammy Davis Jr handled it well, you must admit.

In related news that proposed upcoming Sammy Davis Jr biopic could be so great. The career, cast of characters, and context in which it happened is so rich for storytelling. Let's hope they cast, write, and direct it well.