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Entries in Scandinavia (71)

Monday
Sep192016

"Land of Mine" to compete for Foreign Oscar. (Plus Chart Updates)

Though I just gushed love all over Thomas Vinterberg's Oscar submission finalist The Commune yesterday, today brings news that Denmark went with another title for their submission. The committee unanimously chose Land of Mine, a World War II drama. The film looks at a little told story about German POWs in Denmark forced to dig up land mines. The film will be released in the US by Sony Pictures Classics, dates TBA. It's worth noting that the film is also up for the Nordic Film Prize on November 1st, a prize which has other Oscar submission finalists in the running:

Nordic Council Film Prize Nominees
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finland's Oscar submission)
The Here After (Sweden - Reviewed last year at TIFF)
Land of Mine (Denmark's Oscar submission)
Louder Than Bombs (Norway's English Language Joachim von Trier film)
Sparrows (Iceland's Oscar submission finalist - they have not announced yet)

If you haven't checked out the Foreign Film Submission Charts they've had multiple updates recently with 55 films announced thus far (the number of contenders generally falls somewhere between 75-80 when all is said and done). New announcements include Apprentice from Singapore (reviewed), Jonas Cuarón's Desierto from Mexico (opening next month in the US starring Gael García Bernal, a mainstay of this category), Asgar Farhadi's Arthur Miller inspired Salesman from Iran, Karma from Thailand, and more. You can read about the films on the charts

Submission Charts
Afghanistan to Finland - 20 submissions thus far
George to Morocco - 13 submissions thus far
Nepal to Venezuela - 23 submissions thus far 

Current Predictions 
Here are 15 hunches, alphabetically, of films that have a good shot at the 9-wide finals. In red is the only film you could argue is locked up for the finalist list.
Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia)
Desierto (Mexico)
Happiest Day in the Life... (Finland)
Julieta (Spain)
The King's Choice (Norway)
Land of Mine (Denmark)
Letters From War (Portugal)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
Neruda (Chile)
Salesman (Iran)
Sieranevada (Romania)
Tanna (Australia)
Toni Erdmann (Germany) 
Train Drivers Diary (Serbia) 
"Whatever France Submits" (TBA) 

 

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...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep152016

TIFF on Fire: "Pyromaniac" and "Death in Sarajevo"

Nathaniel R, reporting, still at the Toronto International Film Festival where you'll notice I tend to give dual grades. This is the way to go in the mad rush of festival going. As nourishing as festivals can be from a cinephile, they aren't actually the best climate in which to generate definitive feelings because when you're done with one piece of art you have to rush on to the next one. Here are two films I saw this week that were quite combustible.

Dag lights up a small Norwegian town... unfortunately it's with matches.

Pyromaniac (Dir. Erik Skjoldbjaerg, Norway)
One of Norway's best known directors (Pioneer, Insomnia) is back with another unsettling thriller. The peculiar dichotomy of a fireman who also sets fires is the focus. Create your own dream job, they do always say. Dag (Trond Nillsen, King of Devil's Island) is the son of the local firechief and when he returns to his hometown after military service a small town is suddenly plagued by arson, first in the woods but slowly closing in on actual residences. As fires go this thriller doesn't build to an inferno, as a more traditional movie might, so much as it threatens to consistent. Like someone waiting with gasoline by a small fire. The result is a discomforting slow burn, elevated considerably by artful intuitive detours with female characters. These don't serve the plot so much as bring humanity up face-to-face with inexplicable evil; some see it for what it is (one scene with a piercing scream and a lit match is absolutely terrifying), others flippantly dismiss it. Dag's own mother (a great Liv Bernhort Osa) is handed the painful evasive denouement. [Trivia Note: Strangely Norway has yet to submit Skjoldbjaerg for the Oscar race in Best Foreign Language Film though he's been a finalist before and was again this year. They didn't even submit him for his international breakthrough Insomnia (1997) famously remade by Christopher Nolan a few years later.] B/B+

a talk show host and her volatile guest come to fascinating verbal blows

Death in Sarajevo (Dir. Danis Tanovic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Bosnia & Herzegovina's Oscar Submission
Danis Tanovic came to fame with the anti-war drama No Man's Land (2001) which took the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in its day. Fifteen years later Tanovic is still committed to deeply felt statement films and still righteously angry about senseless wars. The entire film takes place within a cash-poor luxury hotel in Sarajevo that will soon host a meeting of European dignitaries. Everyone is on edge, nobody is getting paid, the workers are ready to strike, and guests are arriving. Though the film beguns with the taping of a talk show on the violent cycles in South Slavic history, fears that this might be little more than educational history lesson were quickly assuaged by strong storytelling and multiple interesting characters like the hotel's laundress, a lovelorn cook, an ambitious female manager, and the cerebral but fierce talk show host and a guest she berates as a "thug" who fits this description but is multi-faceted, too. In one witty but distressing bit another guest of the talk show praises the affect of all the civil wars on the Bosnian people  'it protects us from uniformity of thought.' Uniformity of thought is not a problem with these characters. We know that all the separate stories with their personal dramas and opposing agendas we'll eventually collide (that's what happens in this subgenre of drama) but it's still fascinating to watch them braid together and Tanovic does this artfully. Some of the political content still went over my American head -- especially the story of a man rehearsing a political speech (the film is based on a one man show "Hotel Europe" and this section seemed to be the most direct lift). But as with all fine political dramas, this one understands that politics is personal and vice versa. B/B+ 

more TIFF reviews

Monday
Sep052016

Finland's Oscar Entry and the European Film Awards Finalists

Finland has chosen its Oscar submission this year.

They've gone with the acclaimed black and white boxing drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki which is about a featherweight championship match between American and Finnish boxers in 1962.

That film is also in the finalist list for the European Film Awards. Nominations for the EFAs will be announced on November 5th. The EFA ceremony changes location each year and this year it will be held in Poland on December 10th. Because of competing eligibility dates you'll notice that each year's EFA list contains films from different Oscar seasons. The list of their finalists for 2016 is after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug312016

Norway's Oscar Search Narrows

The land of the midnight sun has narrowed down its contenders for this year's Oscar race. The three films that will be competing for the honor (to be announced on September 7th) are...

  • The King’s Choice (Erik Poppe)
    A WW II drama about German soldiers invading Norway 
  • The Pyromaniac (Erik Skjoldbjærg)
    Dramatic thriller about a southern village terrorized - premiering at TIFF
  • Welcome to Norway (Rune Denstad Langlo)
    A comedy about a couple opening a home for refugees 

Poppe was submitted once before a dozen years back for Hawaii Oslo  and Oscar loves World War II but my guess is it's going to be Pyromaniac or Welcome to Norway. Skjoldbjaerg's history should help with the former since he had a finalist for submission with Pioneer a few years ago, though Norway opted for a lower profile submission, and he was also the co-writer of the internationally popular Norwegian hit Insomnia (1997) which was remade by Christopher Nolan in the Aughts. Welcome to Norway's topicality might help it take the honor, though. Both films won acting prizes at this week's Norwegian Oscars, "the Amandas" where last year's Oscar submission The Wave took the top prize of Best Norwegian Film.

Norway has been nominated five times (1957's Nine Lives, 1987's Pathfinder, 1996's Other Side of Sunday, 2001's Elling, and 2012's Kon-Tiki) but has yet to win the Oscar gold. 

THE AGE OF SHADOWS just announced as South Korea's choice, upsetting THE HANDMAIDENCurrent Foreign Oscar Predictions
10 Official Submissions Thus Far...

Chart 1 (Afghanistan - Finland)
 
Submissions from Australia, Croatia, and Cuba

Chart 2 (France through Morocco)
 
Submissions from Georgia & Germany

Chart 3 (Nepal through Vietnam)
 
Submissions from Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Switzerland, and Venezuela.

Friday
Feb122016

Interview: Tobias Lindholm on the Oscar Nominated 'A War' and Creating Time on Film

Writer/Director Tobias LindholmJose here. In Tobias Lindholm’s A War, the hardest battle for Danish commander Claus M. Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) comes not in the warzone of Afghanistan, but in a courtroom back home where he faces prison time for a tactical decision that ended the lives of civilians. A thoughtful essay on the rules of humanity during wartime, the film remains largely apolitical while still engaging audience members who might question the very nature of foreign invasions, the need for war, and our roles as humans in a world that pits us against each other. Directed with confidence by Lindholm, the film remains outside any specific genre while providing a master class in how to create tension, intimacy and thrills.

A War has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and Lindholm isn’t completely unfamiliar with the experience, having also worked as a writer in the 2012 nominee The Hunt. The versatile filmmaker is next working on yet another screenplay with Thomas Vinterberg and is also writing Paul Greengrass' next film. I had the opportunity to talk with him the day after the Oscar luncheon, and he shared his insight into creating time on film, his cinematic pet peeves and the excitement of awards season.

Our interview is after the jump...

Click to read more ...