|Rhymes for Young Ghouls|
reports the shortlist for the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature. Stories We Tell is in the running, which means that Sarah Polley is having a very good day after scooping the Best Non-Fiction Film prize from the New York Film Critics Circle earlier today. Other expected frontrunners still in the race are The Act of Killing (which, unfortunately, I haven’t seen nor been able to get my hands on a copy…), 20 Feet from Stardom, and Blackfish. The documentary shortlist is usually one of upsets and controversies, and has traditionally been the place where acclaimed favourites come to die, but recent revamps in screening and voting practices are bringing improvement. There’s no significant omission in this list. I might have liked to have seen Muscle Shoals or Blood Brother and (especially) The Ghosts in Our Machine, but it’s hard to argue with the choices on the list. (Although Pussy Riot is a somewhat dubious choice since it’s a crudely shot piece of reportage without much penetrating analysis.) The only omission that really surprises me is Let the Fire Burn, since it's blood-boiling Oscar fodder... but its use of archival footage is nothing in the league of the formal play of truth and storytelling going in Stories We Tell. Best of luck to the selected docs!
The shortlist is as follows, with links to reviews:
More reports from the screener pile:
A Place at the Table
(USA, 84 min.)
Dir. Kristi Jacobson & Lori Silverbush
|Jeff Bridges in A Place at the Table, a Magnolia Pictures release. |
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
The people (re: Executive Producers) who brought you the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. have put America’s fraught diet on the menu once again, but it’s disappointing to report that they’re serving a microwaved meal. The new doc explores the growing percentage of America’s population that is going hungrier day by day. If Food, Inc. offers a scathing and thoroughly objective deconstruction of the unappetizing fact that it is cheaper to eat poorly than it is to eat healthy in America, then A Place at the Table conveys a similar point only without the flavour that had the taste buds of doc fans tingling on all sides of the tongue.
God Loves Caviar (O Theos agapaei to haviari)
(Greece/Russia, 101 min.)
Dir. Yannis Smaragdis, Writ. Yannis Smaragdis, Panagiotis Pashidis, Jackie Pavlenko, Vladimir Valutskiy
Starring: Sebastian Koch, Evgeniy Stychkin, John Cleese, Catherine Deneuve
It was another packed night at the European Union Film Festival on Saturday for the Ottawa premiere of Greece’s God Loves Caviar. The film ranks as one of the more high-profile projects at the festival, since this historical picture is an epic international co-production with some big name talents. Stars like John Cleese and Catherine Deneuve are sure to help draw attention to this hit offering of Greek cinema, and the large scale God Loves Caviar is a worthy commercial pic to help advance the national cinema alongside art house hits like Dogtooth.
The Giants (Les géants)
(Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 84 min.)
Dir. Bouli Lanners, Writ. Bouli Lanners, Elise Ancion
Starring: Martin Nissen, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Paul Bartel
It’s been a refreshingly youthful year at the European Union Film Festival in 2013. Not only has the CFI’s programme offered a wide range of films both about and for audiences of all ages, but the selected films have also had a decidedly contemporary vibe, as their digital video style pulses with energy, electro-pop scores. It seems fitting, then, to wind down the festival with the old school 35mm charm of Belgium’s The Giants. All the coming-of-age tales at the festival improve upon a prototype to which this little film seems wholly indebted. The Giants, which tells of three lost boys finding their way by the river, adds a taste of Huckleberry Finn (or even The Little Rascals) to the closing days of the festival.
Short Term 12
(USA, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Destin Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield.
Screaming, cussing, fighting, crying, healing. It’s just a regular day at Short Term 12. Short Term 12, the subject of Destin Cretton’s film of the same name, is a foster care facility for at-risk teenagers. Cretton ends the film virtually as it begins with Grace (Brie Larson) running after an escaped resident while her fellow staffers follow suit. The scars are healing by the end of Short Term 12, though, and what feels like an escape from hell in one scene plays like a run for freedom in the next. It might just be another day at the facility, but Short Term 12 is not just another film: This raw emotional rollercoaster is American independent filmmaking at its finest.
Shifting the Blame (Schuld Sind Immer Die Anderen)
(Germany, 93 min.)
Dir. Lars-Gunnar Lotz, Writ. Anna Maria Prassler
Starring: Edin Hasanovic, Julia Brendler, Marc Benjamin Puch, Pit Bukowski, Natalia Rudziewicz
Local cinephiles eagerly awaiting this week’s release of the American indie Short Term 12 will surely want to catch the German entry at Ottawa’s European Union Film Festival, Shifting the Blame. Like Short Term 12, Shifting the Blame is an unflinching story about the relationships between social workers and the youths they seek to rehabilitate. The circumstances under which the young characters enter the rehab facilities are different, though, for the teens of Short Term 12 are victims of violence while the youths of Shifting the Blame are agents of it. In spite of the differences, they’re equally compelling. Shifting the Blame is an intense film experience and easily the standout film to screen so far at this year’s European Union Film Festival.
More adventures with the screener pile:
(USA, 96 min.)
Dir. Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders, Writ. Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders, story: John Cleese & Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman.
How the visual arts have improved since the days of the Neanderthal! The animated feature The Croods gives audiences young and old (but mostly the young’uns) a sense of the full scope of animated storytelling with this harmless romp through the Stone Age. Emma Stone stars as a sprightly cave kid named Eep, who has a mop of hair unrulier than Skeeter Phelan’s, and crazy Nic Cage plays her cave daddy, whose idea of bedtime storytelling is to make cautionary tales on the cave walls. “New things are bad,” advises dad as he tells Eep and the family to stay in the cave and be afraid of the dark.
I’m an Old Communist Hag (Sunt o baba comunista)
(Romania, 97 min.)
Dir. Stere Gulea, Writ. Stere Gulea, Vera Ion, Lucian Dan Teodorovici
Starring: Luminita Gheorghiu, Marian Ralea, Ana Ularu, Collin Blair
There’s a savagely funny shot at the end of Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills that flagrantly gives the audience the middle finger and tells them they’re not going to get any closure at the end of a difficult 150-minute drama. It’s the kind of subversively comic move that might leave an audience befuddled while one random guy in the crowd cries a token “Ha!” or begins a slow clap. For all the highfalutin artiness of the Mungiu pic, one has to note the director’s sense of humour.
The Broken Circle Breakdown
(Belgium, 111 min.)
Dir. Felix Van Groeningen, Writ. Carl Joos & Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Johan Heldenbergh, Veerle Baetens, Nell Cattrysse
What is the most cinematic kind of music? Is it opera? Prone to theatrical histrionics, singing fat ladies, and stunt casting with Sara Brightman and Paris Hilton, opera hasn’t fared too well in the movies outside of the odd device in a Woody Allen film. Is classical music the best movie music? Perhaps, as timeless rivalries made Amadeus one the best films of all time, but that was almost thirty years ago. What about country? The twangy tunes of country and bluegrass are all about love and loss. They’re one of the purest forms of American storytelling, which bodes well for Hollywood. Just look at the legacy of country music that has been served in films such as Robert Altman’s 1975 epic Nashville or the 2000 George Clooney/Coen Brothers’ pic O Brother, Where Art Thou.
A bunch of clips from the soon to be released August: Osage County have been released. They're gathered here for your convenience. Watch Meryl Streep chew the scenery in what I think ranks as one of her best performances. (Review from TIFF.) Meryl is a powerhouse as the acid-tongued Violet Weston in this adaptation of the play by Tracey Letts, but she's surrounded by a cast of worthy co-stars, many of whom are highlighted in each of the clips. When can we get the "Eat the fish, bitch!" scene?