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Entries in Spain (10)


Interview: The Filmmakers Behind Spanish Oscar Submission 'Flowers' on MacGuffins, Preserving the Basque Language, and 'The Hours'  

Jose here. Flowers is centered around a mystery which sees construction site office worker Ane (Nagore Aranburu) start receiving flowers from an unknown admirer. Week after week, beautiful flowers arrive on the very same day, then one day they stop. Is it a coincidence that they stopped right after Ane's construction site co-worker Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea) passed away in a car crash? We soon meet Beñat's widow Lourdes (Itziar Ituño) and her mother in law Tere (Itziar Aizpuru) whose relationship only seems to weaken in the aftermath of Beñat's death. Flowers is beautifully constructed by José Mari Goenaga and Jon Garaño (who co-wrote and co-directed the film) who know how to take audience members along on a journey and understand how important it is to have us participate in trying to solve the mystery.

Meditative and melancholic, Flowers, is a worthy follow-up to their equally beautiful For 80 Days, and has been chosen as Spain's official Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category, a historic achievement since it's the first Basque film chosen for the honor. Individually Goenaga and Garaño have done it all, from animated films to documentaries, but their work together has a truly haunting quality, not to mention exquisite performances. I spoke to the filmmakers to discuss their Oscar hopes, making films in Basque and the movies about women that inspire them. 

JOSE: When I first reached out to you, Flowers didn’t have a US release date, now it’s opening on Friday. Are you excited about that?

JOSE MARI: We’re a little bit nervous, the film opens in NYC on October 30 and on November 27th it opens in Los Angeles, which is part of our press agents’ strategy to capture the attention of AMPAS voters. We’re nervous because we don’t know how people will receive it, and the commercial run will undoubtedly affect how it’s perceived by the Academy.

More on Flowers after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Interview: Laia Costa Talks "Victoria" and Her Favorite Actresses

Jose speaks with the star of the must-see one-take German drama Victoria (now in theaters!)

 Few performances this year have been as electrifying as Laia Costa in Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria. Playing the title character she combines innocence with determination in thrilling ways. When we first meet Victoria she is dancing the night away at a club unaware that before the night is over she will be part of a high stakes heist with three men she just met. Schipper’s film is notorious because it was shot in a single, uninterrupted take, no digital trickery in this one, although people have been comparing it to 2014’s Best Picture Birdman all over,  “comparisons are inevitable” but “Victoria is punkier”, says Costa when we speak on the phone. “Someone said that everything has already been invented, we can’t invent anything new” she adds laughing.

Talking to the actress you get a sense of the camaraderie she developed with the cast and crew of the movie. She refers to her director and co-star by their last names, and you can tell she has endless anecdotes about the challenging shoot. Costa will be familiar to fans of the television series The Red Band Society, but Victoria is her biggest screen role to date and has already won her the German Film Award for Best Actress (the first time a Spanish actor has won this accolade). Audiences in Spain can currently see her in Carlos, Rey Emperador where she plays Mary of Austria, a process she calls “more artificial, they’re interested in facts about Spanish history not seeking truth in the characters”, but very necessary because as an actress she seeks to learn by working in as many genres as possible.

JOSE: How many Red Bulls and espressos did you need to shoot Victoria?

LAIA COSTA: Not a single one. It was all just concentration (laughs).

JOSE: You’ve mentioned that making the film was like being on drugs…

LAIA COSTA: Yes, because it was a shooting style I’d never done before, which allowed me to live Victoria’s life for two and a half hours, and go on a “trip”. [More...]

Click to read more ...


7 Days 'til Oscar: Costume Design

Each year at the Oscar ceremony I hope against hope that they'll ditch one of the numerous superfluous montages celebrating something or other throughout history and just do a runway show of the year's best costumes. On rare occasions we've seen a living tableau before the winner was announced and at least once, a Whoopi ceremony, the host actually incorporated costume design into the gig.

Imagine Seth MacFarlane coming out as Fantine in a shredded Les Miz gown or Queen Ravenna's raven collar dress. Sorry, no! I apologize deeply for putting those images in your head. Let's just say that I feel reasonably certain there will at least be a stovepipe hat during the ceremony in honor of Lincoln.

• Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
• Joanna Johnston, Lincoln
• Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
• Paco Delgado, Les Misérables
• Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Hunstman

will win: Anna Karenina, it's not quite traditional "royalty porn", their favorite thing in this category, but the Russian aristocracy is close enough.
should win: Anna Karenina, Durran continues to just amaze in film after film.
weird trivia: The Oscars love Colleen Atwood but she only ever wins when she's pitted against their other all-time favorite Sandy Powell
possible spoiler: if Oscar voters are feeling daring and/or sentimental you could see a posthumous win for the great Ishioka whose costumes always function as their own setpieces they're such scene stealers

My Own Ballot & Semi-Finalists with shout-outs to all the Oscar nominees (great lineup. well done AMPAS) as well as Sharen Davis, Kasia Walicka-Maimone, Caroline Eselin, Julie Weiss, Mark Bridges, and Manon Rasmussen

I think this begs a reader poll...





And the Oscar Goes to... Snow White?

YEAR IN REVIEW BEGINS NOW! Many Best ofs and Film Bitch Awards to follow...

Did you know that today marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of the controversial "Die Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales)" by the Brothers Grimm? (Google is celebrating) The book, a collection of fairy tales both pre-existing in oral form and original, has a complicated legacy in Germany and outside of it. But modern pop culture would be unthinkable without its existence. I mean without Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and the rest you'd have no "Into the Woods", no Grimm or Once Upon a Time, no gingerbread houses, and no global Disney Empire as we know it!

But today, when it comes to the legacy of the Brothers Grimm, I'm thinking about Snow White. If you're reading any list on "Entertainers of the Year" for 2012 and Snow White isn't present, there is a problem. Or if not Snow White (who has, on occassion, defined The Bland Protagonist), than the Evil Queen Stepmother. The Former Fairest of Them All nearly always pulls focus and ends up the defacto star of each iteration.

Earlier this year we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with an animated edition of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"  and the cinema gave us not one not two but three new movie versions of the classic tale... [more]

Click to read more ...


NYFF: "The Skin I Live In" It's Alive!

Michael C. (Serious Film) here with one of my most anticipated titles of 2011.

Dr. Banderas and his monster?

Dammit, Pedro. I just can't stay mad at you.

Even as he never reaches the emotional impact you expect from an Almodóvar production - as is the case with The Skin I Live In - his filmmaking is so alive in every moment one can't help forgiving him his flaws. Is this a top tier work from the man who made All About My Mother? No. Was I still glued to the screen in every moment as I am with few films? Hell, yes.

To call The Skin I Live In "Almodovar does Frankenstein" is both an accurate description and wildly reductive. Accurate in that, yes, Antonio Banderes plays a mad surgeon with a creation of his own held captive in his mansion. It is reductive because Pedro is not about to be satisfied simply delivering his take on lightning bolts and things jumping at you out of the darkness. The horror in Skin is of a far more unsettling variety involving attacks not just on one's safety but on one's sanity. It touches on Almodovar's familiar themes of sexuality, identity, and stopping everything dead so we can watch a beautiful woman sing a beautiful song.

more sans spoilers after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Oscar Submissions: Spain, Iran, Lebanon, Portugal, The Phillipines and Finland

This just in... well, actually it's been burning a whole in my inbox for a day or two. SPAIN, no stranger to Oscar glory with 19 nominations and 4 wins behind them, have narrowed their Oscar list down to 3 films.

It's a fairly standard choice facing Spain. They've got a Pedro Almodóvar film (The Skin I Live In), which automatically assures high profile discussions and viewers in the States even if the film isn't particularly Oscar-ready competing with a lesser known film which is more loved at home (Agustí Villaronga's Pa Negre or Black Bread) and a new film that not a lot of people have seen that hasn't even been released yet (Benito Zambrano's La voz dormida). The latter film is based on a novel and about women who were jailed during the Franco years. 

I'm guessing they go with Pa Negre (which translates to Black Bread) since it made such a very impressive showing at the Goyas this year taking Best Picture and eight more trophies along with it. The film is set in rural Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War and features Sergí Lopez (Pan's Labyrinth) and I hear that the child actors, one of whom discovers a dead body in the forest, are just great in it. I posted the trailer some months ago. [UPDATE 09/28/11: Yes, it was selected. See the Oscar Charts]

UPDATE: In confusing official and then not official but maybe possibly official eventually news...

IRAN (1 nomination) supposedly submitted Asghar Fahradi's A Separation, (pictured left) which is already an award winning film, a marital drama with a high international profile. Sony Pictures Classics will distribute. I immediately put it in my prediction list. But supposedly Iran wasn't happy that this news rushed out and it wasn't official official. Distinctions! So it might be A Separation but they're now considering Ahmad-Reza Motamedi's Alzheimer's, Bahram Tavakkoli's Here without Me, Ali-Reza Davoudnejad's Salve and Rambod Javan's No Men Allowed as well.

In more official news

FINLAND (1 nomination) has gone with Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre as everyone suspected wish is about a shoe shiner who befriends an immigrant. Kaurismäki gave Finland its only nomination with the dry funny The Man Without a Past some years back. 

LEBANON (never nominated) has submitted the musical that's now playing at TIFF, Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now? which is from the director of Caramel.


PORTUGAL (never nominated) will submit José & Pilar, which is a documentary by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes about the bestselling novelist José Saramago (Blindness) and his wife as well as the friction between private artists and their public lives. Sounds interesting. Guess what? Actor Gael García Bernal and director Fernando Meirelles (who were of course both involved in the Blindness film adaptation) also appear in the film.

This just in...

THE PHILIPPINES (never nominated) are submitting Woman in a Septic Tank which sounds really interesting. I'm also in love with the poster.

It's a comedy about the making of a movie as three filmmakers meet in Starbucks, call on their lead actress (played by Eugene Domingo as both herself and the character in the movie) and plan their poverty drama's shoot which will take place in a garbage dump. The movie gets reinvented several times over and changes genres and form in their imaginations.



Reader Spotlight: Borja

Hey people! Sorry we missed the spotlight last week. This is a series where we get to know members of The Film Experience community!

This week I'd like to introduce you to Borja from Spain. He's a talent agent so if you're an actor or actress, maybe one day he'll be staring at your headshot or reel!

Nathaniel: Borja thanks for doing this. How did you discover The Film Experience?
BORJA:  I was googling an actress two years ago and clicked over. I love your point of view Nathaniel and it's a place where people are passionate but respectful -- something rare on the web.

Thanks. Do you remember your first movie?
The first I remember vividly was Raiders of the Lost Ark and I left the theater changed forever. I was only six and it was my true favorite for a long time, the benchmark for all action and adventure movies. All the people involved became my heroes: Steven Spielberg, who is directly responsible of my love for movies, Harrison Ford and, of course, Karen Allen. Marion Ravenwood is still one of the most fascinating female characters of all time.

So underrated! I'm feeling generous so I'm giving you FIVE favorite actresses. Go.
I´ll try…

Sigourney Weaver: My first favorite. I discovered her for the first time in “Ghostbusters”, a movie where she is funny, sexy, dark and intelligent. The definitive love came with “Alien”, logically. There is nothing I can say about Ellen Ripley that hasn't been said before. The idea of a woman taking control, being brave, tough and credible at the same time… Ufff… too much for me, I was trapped. Weaver is much more than Ripley though. Highlights on her career: “Year of living dangerously” (my personal favorite at the moment), “Working girl”, “Gorillas in the mist”, “Death and the maiden” or “A map of the world”. One word to describe her? Unique. No one before, no one after her.

Penélope Cruz. To understand my passion you must live in Spain. She became a national star at 18, with two movies: “Jamón Jamón” and “Belle Epoque”. Since then, she has had a career with up and downs, but being the most successful Spanish actress in history, becoming a big star in Hollywood, having problems with the English language and finally being nominated to three Oscars and winning. During that whole time I was supporting her from a distance. In Spain, the coolest thing you can say about her is that she is a bad actress, she is not so beautiful and looks cheap. It´s so tiring! I think she has the screen presence only the greatest stars of all time have.

Kirsten Dunst: The most underrated actress of her generation. I love how she takes the simplest way to create a character. You will never see her overacting or being selfish, she is always honest, transparent and clean. You can read everything through her eyes. I find her fascinating as a woman, I love the way she looks, the way she talks… everything ! She is not at the peak of her popularity these days but I´m sure that's temporary. Can't wait to see her work with Von Trier.

Michelle Williams: I was a "Dawson's Creek" addict and I remember being very mad because everything on the show was designed as a vehicle for Katie Holmes (nothing against Mrs. Cruise). But since the pilot I was in love with Michelle… in fact I remembered her from “Species”, that terrible Alien-with a hot blonde movie. Since then, she has proved not only that she is a versatile infinite actress but that she has taste and guts choosing projects. And it doesn't hurt that she is a class act in everything related with her exposed and difficult life.

Kate Winslet: Capable of everything. Period.

You work in the industry as an agent right? What do you look for in actors to decide to represent them?
Mmmm… difficult question. I could talk for hours about this and say nothing but I will try to be concrete: The perfect mixture of talent, intuition and charisma. Oh, and I try to work only with good people, this is fundamental for me.  

That's SO under-discussed. Let this be a lesson to all budding film professionals: it's not only talent or looks. If you're not good people, who will want to hang around you all day on set?

OK, wrapping up. The movie of your life. Title? Star?
The title should be: “La camisa del hombre feliz” (“The shirt of the happy man”, kind of…) and who I want to play me? Uff… Must be short, with dark hair and a big nose. Ben Foster comes to my mind, or Emile Hirsch. Those could work.

previous episodes of this series