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Entries in Scandinavia (97)

Monday
Sep162019

TIFF Quickie: Crazy White Women!

by Nathaniel R

For this last batch of short TIFF reviews, let's look at three films about mysterious and/or psychologically complex female characters. The post title was glib but the films aren't. 

DISCO (Jorunn Mykelbust Syversen, Norway)
This puzzling drama centers on a champion dancer whose mom and step-dad run some kind of evangelical church. Apparently in Scandivania -- as with America -- conservative faith movements are on the rise. Syversen shows empathy for her characters but chills it with a clinically detached rhythym to the cutting. The lost protagonist Mirjam (Josefine Frida Pettersen) has mysterious physical troubles and vacant psychology that can bring flickers of Todd Haynes' Safe (1995) to mind.

Syversen's strongest skill seems to be in observational mode. In one escalating series of scene at a Jesus camp the choices in camera distance are particularly compelling. In medium shot we observe a group of boys being told to breathe quickly in and out of paper bags to drive out the demons inside them. Cut to a long shot as we watch them comically pass out as they hyperventilate. This is a followed by a not at all comical baptism that is shot more like a drowning. Despite Syverson's obvious skill and a tight running time (94 minutes), Disco is far too repetitive and its point of view remains as opaque as Mirjam's psychology. It's not enough, always, to merely observe. C

EMA (Pablo Larraín, Chile)
The first image is a startling one: a still working traffic light engulfed in flames...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep062019

TIFF: "A White White Day"

by Nathaniel R

In the middle of the stylish grief-stricken Icelandic drama, what appears to be an amateur children's play is airing on the television. The camera drifts to it and stays far longer than is natural for "background" atmosphere in a movie. An astronaut and assorted spacesuit wearing children, have experienced some kind of spacecraft crash. As we zero in on the television, the lone adult onscreen. after finding out that each of his charges are still alive (for now), launches into a hysteric speech about how 'we're all going to die. Including your parents and siblings. Yes, even you.' Salka, an eight year-old towhead granddaughter of the the film's protagonist, watches the television with her cheerio-sucking baby brother, entirely unfazed by this truth. Obviously children's entertainment like this would only fly in Scandinavia or maybe France, where young'uns can also drink wine with their parents and learn their existential nihilism young.  

Which is not to snarkily say that A White White Day is nihilistic. Just that it's pragmatically clear-eyed even when it should be crying. Far from callous and cold, despite the temperatures suggested by that omnipresent fog, thick-maned Icelandic horses, and all the heavy sweaters, the film is warm when it counts. This is a compassionate drama about grief and the sideways behaviour that will out if you keep stifling the main thing...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug262019

Best International Feature: Parasite, The Whistlers, and Denmark's Hopefuls...

by Nathaniel R

Park So-dam and Choi Woo-sik as con-artist siblings in Parasite (2019)

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2ND 2:00 PM: The titles competing at the 92nd annual Oscars for Best International Feature are coming at us fast and furious now. In the past few days the number has climbed to an "official" 26 submissions...with probably 60ish titles still to come. 

SOUTH KOREA
It was widely expected that South Korea would select Cannes Palme d'Or Winner Parasite to represent them but we've been surprised by the country's selection before (why oh why did they pass on The Handmaiden in its year - argh!). Thankfully they didn't surprise us this year. This is Bong Joon-ho's best movie ever, give or take the also-quite-brilliant but Oscar-shunned Mother (his only other film that was submitted by South Korea) so it would be sweet to see it actually compete for the gold.

Denmark's finalists, Romania's selection, and the official submission chart updates are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug182019

"Out Stealing Horses" wins Norway's Top Film Prizes

by Nathaniel R

Out Stealing Horses

You may recall that when we posted our April Foolish Oscar predictions we suggested that the Norwegian film Out Stealing Horses could well compete for the Best International Film Oscar. That was a blind call based solely on its pedigree (a lush adaptation of a best-seller with a known director) since a) we hadn't seen the picture, b) Norway hadn't submitted it, and c) there weren't many industry reactions yet. Those things are still true save the latter which is now emphatically untrue. It's obviously well liked since it just took the top prize at Norway's annual Amanda Awards. Early critical reaction via Berlinale in February was also positive. 

More about the Amanda Awards and that film after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Aug102019

Sweden narrows down Oscar options: true story, sci-fi drama, or gay romance?

A few tidbits of note in the Best International Film competition at the forthcoming Oscars. Two countries have been approved to submit that never have before: Uzbekistan and Uganda! In other "U" alphabetized news, The Ukraine will select their film on August 23rd.

But the most speficic recent news is that Sweden has already whittled their possible submission down to three films, and one of them is basically a Georgian film (though Georgia definitely won't be submitting it as they do not approve). They are...

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Saturday
Nov102018

EFA Nominations: Poland's "Cold War" Leads

by Nathaniel R

Joanna Kulig in "Cold War"

It was a big morning for Oscar hopefuls in the foreign language film category as a handful of them have been nominated for multiple European Film Awards. Pawel Pawlikowski, whose nun drama Ida won the Oscar a handful of years back, is leading the EFA field with his new music-filled drama Cold War, about a musician and singer in a long tragic love affair across Europe. It's nominated in 5 categories. The nearest rivals with 4 nominations each are Italy's Dogman, Sweden's Border, and Italy's Happy as Lazzaro (the only one not submitted for the Oscars). Two other Oscar submissions also had cause to celebrate: Denmark's police thriller The Guilty and Belgium's trans ballerina drama Girl were also nominated for a few awards. 

The complete list of nominations and a few more comments are after the jump...

Click to read more ...