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Entries in Reviews (420)

Friday
Sep232016

Foreign Oscar Watch: Bedouin Marriage, Persian Haunting, Slavic Space Program

Yesterday at an unusually tense and controversial Ophir Awards ceremony, Sand Storm won the Israeli Oscar and will thus be Israel's Oscar submission. The debut female director Elite Zexer, giving the last acceptance speech of the evening, spoke about how she employed Jews, Muslims, and Christians on the picture. 

Though I already think Israel should have won the Oscar in this category (for Late Marriage which was submitted but not nominated in the year of Amelie and No Man's Land) and they've had high quality films in the mix before, I'm a little cool on this particular picture. Ah well, you can't love everything!

The UK's submission is a horror thriller set in IranAs more and more titles are announced for the Foreign Oscar Race, the variety of genres keeps growing, too. We have animated films, horror thrillers, docu-fiction hybrids, political dramas, romantic comedies, crime films, as well as submissions from this particular category's three all time favorite subgenres: 1) WW II Anything, 2) Internationally Famous Auteur Made It, and 3) Emotional Journeys Featuring Young Child/Children Forming Bond and/or Travelling With Old Person/Persons. 

Beyond Israel's submission the past few days have brought us a Persian horror film submitted by the UK called Under the Shadow, Canada's third attempt at getting Oscar voters to love Xavier Dolan with It's Only the End of the World, Slovenia's docu-drama about America's interest in the Yugoslavian space program in the 1960s, Iceland's family drama Sparrows (which curiously marks the fourth year in a row that country has sent a film with an animal in the title), a big budget Pakistani effort about poets in two different eras called Mah e Mir, and Hong Kong's hit crime drama Port of Call starring Aaron Kwok. You can read about all 71 titles on the charts. Italy and France, historically Oscar's two most awarded countries, have not yet announced their submissions at this writing.

We've reviewed 9 of the 71 titles announced thus far (with more reviews soon) In case you missed any of those reviews, here's the list:

With the caveat that i have MANY more submissions yet to see, my four favorites (to date) are the entries from Chile, Bosnia, Singapore, and Estonia

  • Death in Sarajevo - Bosnia & Herzegovina's politically-loaded hotel drama 
  • Mother - Estonia's black comedy about a very popular comatose man
  • Chevalier - Greece's satire on competitive masculinity
  • Sand Storm - Israel's feminist drama (their first submission entirely in Arabic) about women in unhappy marriages
  • A Flickering Truth - New Zealand's doc on a quite unusual subject: film preservation in Afghanistan
  • Apprentice - Singapore's prison drama on capital punishment
  • My Life as a Courgette - Switzerland's animated film about orphaned/abused children
  • As I Open My Eyes - Tunisia's youth drama about musicians struggling with the lack of freedom of expression they're allowed
  • From Afar - Venezuela's violent intergenerational LGBT romance

Four of the submissions this year are in theaters in the US or about to hit: Australia's Tanna and South Korea's The Age of Shadows are now in theaters in select cities; Sweden's A Man Called Ove opens next Friday; and on October 14th we get one of the most high-profile competitors in Mexico's Desierto starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Foreign Oscar regular / international star Gael García Bernal. (Bernal also leads Chile's excellent submission from Pablo Larraín called Neruda; we fully expect Larraín to have two films in the Oscar running since he also directed Jackie). Desierto is directed by Alfonso Cuarón's 34 yr old son Jonás, who co-wrote Gravity with his dad. Will you try to catch these films in theaters? 

Thursday
Sep222016

Review: "The Magnificent Seven"

by Chris Feil

Drawing on the original iterations of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and the 1960 American remake by John Sturges, Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven arrives as another attempt to reanimate the American western.

Denzel Washington leads this bursting cast as Chisolm, corralling a ragtag mini-militia to help protect a small town from a violent and overbearing tycoon (Peter Sarsgaard). There are familiar faces (Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio) and emerging talents (Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier) rounding out the Magnificent bunch with more shared attention to each player than you might be anticipating...

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Sunday
Sep182016

TIFF 2016: Winners & Review Index

TIFF just ended crowning La La Land with the coveted People's Choice Award (runners up: Lion & Queen of Katwe) and Jackie with their new juried prize. We haven't totally closed up shop - we've left the door ajar because there are a few articles left to come. It takes time processing all of this art that's rushing over us! Films give us so many feelings! The Toronto International Film Festival is my personal favorite film festival in the world:  easy to attend, friendly, well organized, less prohibitively expensive than other festivals. I saw and enjoyed 27 movies and would have seen a few more but for getting sick in the rain and rush. But the festival experience is such that even mediocre or bad movies can be remembered with positive associations.

Here are all the reviews and articles (thus far) in one place in case you missed any or would like a handy index.

my ten favorites from TIFF '16 (in no particular order)

Reviews from TIFF 16
The Apprentice - Singapore's Oscar submission
Arrival - Denis Villeneuve's gripping superbly crafted sci-fi journey
The Bad Batch - Ana Lily Armipour's cannibal wasteland satire
Blind Sun - Visual paranoia in Greece
Catfight - Anne Heche vs. Sandra Oh three times
Colossal - Anne Hathaway is a Kaiju in this cult oddity
The Commune -Thomas Vinterberg's wonderful 70s drama
Death in Sarajevo -Bosnia's politically fired up Oscar submission
A Decent Woman - Argentinian whatsit about a nudist maid
Elle - Paul Verhoeven & Isabelle Huppert serve up twisted cerebral comedy
Frantz - François Ozon's black & white drama of grief & guilt

Handsome Devil - coming of age at a rugby-mad boarding school
A Monster Calls - a visual fantasy about a young boy losing his mother
My Life as a Courgette - Switzerland's animated/foreign Oscar submission
Nocturnal Animals - Tom Ford's lurid meta movie
• Pyromaniac - a Norwegian thriller
(re) Assignment - Walter Hill's ill advised gender surgery noir
The Red Turtle - a mute magical beauty, sure to be Oscar-nominated
Sand Storm - an Israeli drama about female oppression and marriage
Santa & Andres -a Cuban political drama about LGBT oppression
Strange Weather - Holly Hunter returns!
The Wedding Ring - a Nigerian romantic fable 

Non Review Articles
A Cocktail with Sigourney - tall, beautiful, funny
Michael Fassbender Tribute - He has some regrets 
Moonlight's Oscar buzz - a note of caution 
Jackie Bought by Searchlight - watch out Oscar race 
• Hidden Figures Brunch Pt 1 - Glen Powell 

Still to Come
There are a few more articles coming, as stated and Oscar charts will be updated shortly to reflect all this new knowledge. We'll also have plenty of chances to discuss Moonlight, The HandmaidenLa La Land, and Jackie, (opening in that order October through December) since they'll all be up for either Oscars or our own prizes at TFE. I didn't review them properly (yet) because it's always hardest to write about films you love. You want to do them justice and festival schedules are rushed. But know this for now: they are all excellent and it's going to be an amazing Fall Film Season if any of the as yet unseen titles like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk or Fences or Silence (if that even opens) deliver on this level, too. That's got to be reassuring after that truly terrible movie summer we all endured. I purposefully skipped Toronto titles that will also be playing at New York Film Festival (which begins September 30th) or are opening during it but soon we discuss these films, too: Julieta, Aquarius, Birth of a Nation, Neruda, Queen of Katwe, Magnificent Seven, Manchester by the Sea, Certain Women, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, Sieranevada, The Ornithologist, Toni Erdmann, Edge of Seventeen and Personal Shopper

Sunday
Sep182016

TIFF: Thomas Vinterberg returns with "The Commune"

Nathaniel R from the Toronto International Film Festival

Thomas Vinterberg first came to fame with the Dogme 95 masterpiece The Celebration (1998) which was an international success reaping Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Foreign Film. Oscar famously snubbed it during their long stretch of controversial years in the 90s and 00s where they regularly ignored major critical darlings eventually prompting reforms to the selection process in the late Aughts. Vinterberg was eventually nominated with another international success The Hunt (2012) and after his English language sleeper success Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) it's safe to say he's on quite a roll currently. 

For years people had suggested to Vinterberg that he make a film about commune life since he had grown up in one as a child in the 70s...

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Saturday
Sep172016

Review: Bridget Jones's Baby

by Eric Blume

Everyone’s favorite contemporary British heroine is back:  Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is now successful, at her ideal weight, and alas still single.  In Bridget Jones’s Baby, she has two surprising one-night stands with different men:  an American dating guru (Patrick Dempsey) and her former flame Mark Darcy (Colin Firth).  Then she’s pregnant:  who could the father be?  Will we see misunderstandings and shenanigans along the lines of a typical Three’s Company episode?  Unfortunately, yes…yes, we do.

The original 2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary remains a mini-classic of its kind:  one of the most dignified and intelligent of its genre (romantic comedy), yet it also transcends the genre, truly plumbing some depth (as mainstream movies go) about accepting who you really are, and understanding what love actually is.  It went beyond your typical “boy and girl like each other because they’re in a movie together as leads” mentality and went to the heart of the characters’ specifics.  With sharp, interesting acting from its three leads (Zellweger, Firth, and Hugh Grant), the film had snap and verve; it felt vital.

Diary’s skilled director, Sharon Maguire, didn’t return for the first sequel (Beyond Reason) but is back in the chair for Baby...

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Saturday
Sep172016

Lovesick Brides to Be at TIFF

Nathaniel reporting from the last weekend at TIFF where brides-to-be are in the air. It's easy to see little mini-festivals blossom within the overall festival you're watching. Sometimes it happens quite by accident as with three films I caught recently (two of which might be fighting for Oscar foreign film nods). All feature female protagonists who pine for a man they thought they would marry before things went horribly wrong. We've already discussed François Ozon's Frantz. In that film the fiancee is already dead when the movie begins but in these next two films The Wedding Ring from Niger and Sand Storm from Israel, both of the young women begin the movie with a combination of dread and hope: will they be able to marry the man they loved who they met in a liberal university setting or does their conservative rural village community have other futures in mind? Both films are narrative debuts by female directors. In addition to their romantic dramas these two films speak to the clash of modernity and tradition, West and East, and especially to gender roles with young women chafing at the expectations placed on them to be subservient to whims of the patriarchy...

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