It will take many months to actually get the contracts from them, and I still need to raise about $45,000 to pay for this limited permission, but films are customarily released right after approvals; Sita Sings the Blues is more or less decriminalized at this point. So it’s time to release her! I have to update the credits and sound designer Greg Sextro is doing some final tweaking of the audio, but we’re hoping to have the film online and free under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License in about a month.If all Sita related copyright talk has you more interested in legal rights around derivative artistic works Techdirt has some additional posts in keeping with their never-ending interest in the subject.
Stone of Destiny (Canada/UK) - Interesting for the historical angle. Based on a true story about the successful plot to recapture the stone used as part of coronation ceremonies for the King of Scotland - taken by the British and housed in Westminster Abbey. If you're interested in this area of history worth a look. Decent enough as a caper flick, fun performances all around. Nothing to kill yourself getting to see in my view. But pleasant enough.
The Market - A Tale of Trade (Germany) - One of my favorites of the festival, and really deserving of a much bigger writeup. Set in Turkey it follows Mihram a wheeling and dealing trader who thinks he's found a big, legitimate business opportunity but lacks the capital required to make it work. Then he's asked to do work that's more about the honor (getting replacement medicine for a clinic) than about the money. Both the slice of life watching him make his living aspect as well as the later moral dilemmas had me enjoying the experience all the way through. Fairly highly recommend.
Captive (Bulgaria) - Set in Chechnya - two Russian soldiers are told to kidnap a local to help them get their unit out of a tough spot. They do so and then spend the better part of the film dragging the young man back across the bleak landscape. Really engrossing to watch, with a none too subtle message that both sides are doing the same horrible things to each other. There's also a homoerotic element thrown in (slight, but not much more subtly) crossed with an ending that flashed me back to one of the less funny (on purpose) episodes of MASH. It's Russian, so you didn't really expect a happy ending did you? Worth seeing.
The Rest is Silence (Romania) - Story of the making of the first Romanian feature length film (interestingly enough preceding Birth of a Nation by several years). Based on a real movie though the director pointed out he pretty quickly deviates into fantasy. Fun for film buffs who get to see (among other things) how even in the beginning the artists get screwed. Interesting sense (though don't know how real it is) of the conflict between the stage and screen actors of the day. Bonus points for anyone who can guess which character gets burned alive and how many minutes into the script the Jews get blamed for something. I know, I know - as explained in a book I was flipping through today we're an industrious, intelligent group, whose entire reputation is sullied by a taste for the blood of Christian babies. Tough habit to shake.
Mommy Is at the Hairdresser (Canada) - I've heard some mixed opinion but I quite liked this coming of age story set in 60's Quebec. It follows a family, mainly thorough the eyes of their daughter
over the course of a pivotal summer. Dad's in the closet, the "weird" local deaf guy is a great influence and Mom skips town. Yet oddly enough not a depressing story. With a soundtrack so good I've got to believe it's never going to make it into the theatrical release (based on my new Sita Sings the Blues pessimism about festival film music). I do recommend this one.
White Night Wedding (Iceland) - I went to check this out because the director had also done Jar City,
a gritty Icelandic police procedural. According to the festival blurbs it was (at least loosely) based on a play by Chekhov- which most regular readers will not be surprised to learn I am completely unfamiliar with. A man is looking is getting remarried to a much younger woman and the story shows his history in flashback with a prior wife as in the present he wrestles with what's next. Set on a tiny island he's also dealing with some financial problems as his inlaws are quite insistent that he pay back rent on some land he's never really used. Interesting enough while I watched it, not exactly a positive upbeat tale by the end. Though the pretty sketchy business planning that underpin some of the comedy take on a new meaning given Iceland's recent banking troubles. I thought it was OK, and nice to see a different part of the world. I'd put it in my "pretty decent" category for this festival
I believe that concludes all the film related news from Palm Springs. At least for now.
I'm feeling worn out and lazy this morning so I'm going to completely cheat and use the description from SIFF website. In The Sicilian Clan, "Capo Vittorio Manalese (Jean Gabin) busts cop-killer Roger Sartet (Alain Delon) out of prison to help plot an elaborate jewel heist. Manalese’s sexy daughter-in-law proves a distraction… All set to a great Ennio Morricone score."
I really enjoyed the film, good solid caper movie. IMDB has a movie listed with a release in 2010 of the same name - wondering if they're doing a remake. All I'll say is that airport security wasn't quite what is is now back then. That part may need to change...
Overall I've had pretty decent coverage. Saw all the best picture nominations, all the lead actor performance (only paying for one), all supporting actor, missed 2 in best actress, but caught all the best supporting actress performances.
In Documentary and Foreign categories I fared a bit worse. In Documentary I've only seen two of the films (Man on Wire, and Trouble the Water) there. But a bit better in the foreign category where I caught three (Revanche, Departures, and Waltz with Bashir). Hopefully the other two nominees in this category will come through Seattle soon.
Best motion picture of the year
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
* "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
* "Milk" (Focus Features)
* "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actor in a leading role
* Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
* Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
* Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
* Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
* Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
* Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
* Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
* Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
* Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
* Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
* Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
* Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
* Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
* Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
* Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
* Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
* Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
* Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
* Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
* Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)
Best animated feature film of the year
* "Bolt" (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
* "Kung Fu Panda" (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
* "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton
Achievement in cinematography
* "Changeling" (Universal) Tom Stern
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Claudio Miranda
* "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
* "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Anthony Dod Mantle
Achievement in costume design
* "Australia" (20th Century Fox) Catherine Martin
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Jacqueline West
* "The Duchess" (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) Michael O'Connor
* "Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Glicker
* "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Albert Wolsky
Achievement in directing
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Fincher
* "Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Ron Howard
* "Milk" (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
* "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle
Best documentary feature
* "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
* "Encounters at the End of the World"
* "The Garden"
* "Man on Wire" (Magnolia Pictures)
* "Trouble the Water" (Zeitgeist Films)
Achievement in film editing
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
* "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lee Smith
* "Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
* "Milk" (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens
Best foreign language film of the year
* "The Baader Meinhof Complex" A Constantin Film Production - Germany
* "The Class" (Sony Pictures Classics) A Haut et Court Production - France
* "Departures" (Regent Releasing) A Departures Film Partners Production - Japan
* "Revanche" (Janus Films) A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production - Austria
* "Waltz with Bashir" (Sony Pictures Classics) A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production - Israel
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Alexandre Desplat
* "Defiance" (Paramount Vantage) James Newton Howard
* "Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Elfman
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
* "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
* "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
* "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
* "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam
* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
* "Doubt" (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
* "Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
* "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
* "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
* "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Courtney Hunt
* "Happy-Go-Lucky" (Miramax) Written by Mike Leigh
* "In Bruges" (Focus Features) Written by Martin McDonagh
* "Milk" (Focus Features) Written by Dustin Lance Black
* "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
If you answered yes to at least 3/4 of these questions then at first The Seed of Discord would seem to be your ideal film. Though the look and feel made it more watchable than the storyline otherwise would have. Not especially funny, nor surreal (both suggested by the description) for me this was partially a victim of my expectations combined with difficulty believing some of the situations. It's also probably the #1 film this festival where I wish the writer or director had been able to attend. Maybe worst of all I sat directly in front of the guy who lost it at Vaclav - and no repeat performance.
The film starts as we meet a women in the retail clothes business is busily going about what appears to be a successful life. Her husband is a fertilizer salesman who's away from home most of the time. When home for brief stops he appears to be a bit distant and a less than inspired lover. Not to mention a bit overly excited at the prospects for his company's new product line.
At her mother's urging the women suddenly decides it's time to get pregnant. She has her fertility tested and everything looks good. Life continues. With the husband away one night after closing she's attacked by a pair of thugs who knock her down but are chased away by a security card before they take her money. But she's knocked unconscious in the incident leaving what actually transpired a bit fuzzy. Then (again at the mother's urging) the husband is sent off to get tested. In the meantime she becomes pregnant - though everyone is less than thrilled when results come back showing the husband is sterile. Rampant speculation then occurs.
The story seems resolved by the end, though I suppose there's enough open issues that could leave you somewhat debating what happened. Though I wasn't really inclined to think about it too much after leaving. Did I like it though? On one hand it seems I'm easily distracted by bright, shiny objects. The vibrant colors used in both this film (even more present than in Bart Got a Room) seem to engage some part of my brain to pay attention. Visually it's very nice to look at - and satisfies the four criteria at the top of the story. I just sort of wish there was a more engaging or perhaps slightly weirder/more open storyline. BTW - apparently based in part on this famous story.
It does win the award though for most entertaining post-film conversation after the screening though. Your mileage on reproducing thatmay vary.
In remote landscape lives a doctor with very limited resources. He only seems to have a few bandages and one or two medicines in a small tin. Each day seems pretty monotonous, occasionally punctuated by one of the locals being rushed into the house - typically on the verge of death. Amazingly he seems to save everyone - usually via some method crossing the line between modern medicine and a folklore cure. Occasionally it's just the latter such as when the locals teach him how to revive someone killed by a lightening strike by burying them up to their head.
He's also waiting for his lover to return - and there's a brief segment devoted to that. Crime seems to also be on the rise with at least one shootout between interlopers and the sole police officer anywhere in sight. Throughout a mysterious stranger is watching him from the hills...
I'm not really sure what they were going for here. At one point I got the sense of everyone existing in a state of literal purgatory. Sometimes films can be a bit too challenging to me.
I didn't hate the film as it kept me wondering where things were going and what significance events have. In a festival that was at times a little short of mentally challenging fare it wasn't a bad change of pace. But outside of the festival environment I'm not sure it'd be something I'd recommend unless you have a deep love of Russian cinema. Particularly the type with less talking and a bleak palette. Looking back it was probably the most interesting of the "serious" films on my last day - so don't let me completely scare you off.
If you'd like a better sense of some of the visuals their official website has a fair number of photos and a trailer.
- Terribly Happy
- Worlds Apart
- A Police Romance
- Chef's Special
- Stone of Destiny
- The Market - A Tale of Trade
- The Rest is Silence
- I Can't Think Straight
- Mommy Is at the Hairdresser
- Il Divo
- White Night Wedding
- The Girl From Monaco
- Bart Got a Room
- Wild Field
- The Seed of Discord
You can read the full press release on the Academy's web site. I've seen four of them so far (Revanche, Waltz with Bashir, Departures, 3 Monkeys). There's a few really good ones I would have thought could just as easily made the list from the full set of submissions. Especially Song of Sparrows, Tricks, or Mermaid. Hopefully some of the other ones will be around somewhere in Seattle so I can see them in the next couple of months. But hey - it's just a random list - not like you can really rank order art.
- Austria, “Revanche,” Gotz Spielmann, director;
- Canada, “The Necessities of Life,” Benoit Pilon, director;
- France, “The Class,” Laurent Cantet, director;
- Germany, “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” Uli Edel, director;
- Israel, “Waltz with Bashir,” Ari Folman, director;
- Japan, “Departures,” Yojiro Takita, director;
- Mexico, “Tear This Heart Out,” Roberto Sneider, director;
- Sweden, “Everlasting Moments,” Jan Troell, director;
- Turkey, “3 Monkeys,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director.
And a very special thanks to Philip, Iris and the rest of the Seattle based folks who make it feel even more like home. Hope you enjoy the sun a bit longer and then have a safe trip home.
A lawyer is called to Monaco to defend a woman who has killed her younger lover. Concerned about the deceased friend's the mother's son hires a bodyguard for the lawyer (the bodyguard is played by the male lead in A Police Romance). A bit of an over thinker in his affairs with women (and everything else) the lawyer is struck by the bodyguards direct and simple approach to life in general and women in particular. After initial interactions with women closer to his age he gets involved with the much younger local weather girl. Young, blond, attractive and biased towards wearing the legal minimum in the way of clothes it's not a great shock he's attracted. Surprisingly she returns the affections - though she'd put it a bit more directly. No relationship onscreen that starts with a request I'm not going to repeat here is likely to end well. She also is pretty free with her love - which tends to make him uncomfortable.
The physical and mental highs blind him to the damage she's doing to his career (and most likely his body). The bodyguard who used to date her offers caution but it's largely rebuffed. How the relationship is sorted out is where the film varies from the traditional romantic comedy.
The "funny" part isn't super hilarious but it's pleasant enough to watch. With the variation of the story line towards the more unusual I think there's enough for a mild recommendation. Just don't expect high art.
The path taken by a young fisherman is traced from rural Cuba to Havana and back again. He's unable to hold onto his love in both places, though he achieves a small degree of success while in Havana - while expanding his world view to include homosexuality and befriending prostitutes. Fairly slow moving most of the time with a disproportionate amount of the dialog being folks arguing and calling each other not so nice names.
I did get slightly bored at times, but overall I liked it. Mild recommend unless you're dying to take in some of the Cuban countryside and the less affluent parts of Havana. In which case you probably don't want to skip it.
The main awards are:
Departures named Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
Visual Acoustics named Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature;
Revanche receives FIPRESCI Award
Hooked receives New Voices/New Visions Award;
Captain Abu Raed receives John Schlesinger Award
- What will my friends think?
- Will they be fun to hang out with?
- Will they look good in the prom photo?
- Will I get laid?
There's also an occasionally entertaining and interwoven story line about his parents who are divorced and dating other people. It produces multiple uncomfortable situations such as the dad asking the son to assess his date's physical attributes.
Overall a pretty entertaining coming of age story with an interesting visual look. I heard some folks complain they didn't like the over-saturated palette used. Personally I found it worked well. The film doesn't break new group across the board, but they do take the story in a direction that at least somewhat checks the road less traveled. That combined with the likable story and characters make this a recommend. And not just due to any personal similarities with the film - even if they exist.
Release information: according to the Q&A with the director post screening they now have distribution for the film and a release is planned in April '09.
Looking for work he answers an ad that's a bit ambiguous but offers flexible hours and high pay. The position is only described as dealing with "Departures.". Thinking it might be a travel agency he calls and sets up an interview. Hired on the spot he later learns the job involves "casketing," the process of washing the deceased (usually in front of their family) before they're placed in the coffin for cremation. The older owner of the company explains that families used to do this themselves but that now most people hire someone to provide the service. At first the younger man is put off but decides to try it - largely it appears for the money. His wife and most neighbors are extremely displeased to the point of shunning his company but it turns out he has a true gift for the work. It's hard for me to describe in writing but the film shows how the process he's paid to do brings a great deal of closure to the families present - and that rewarding aspect of the work changes the way family and friends perceive the new profession.
It's a slowly paced movie that's very rewarding to watch. Well acted, visually beautiful with well fit music throughout. It wasn't quite as moving for me as Cherry Blossoms but it was still very good (technically that's not a Japanese film - but the style and theme of life/death begs the comparison). It's well worth a try, even if like me you're initially turned off by the ick factor. Thankfully I was talked into it by some friends and I'm very glad it went.
It's been generating tremendous word of mouth here among festival goers. In part because it's very good - but also I believe due to it's scarcity. Both screenings were totally sold out with many passholders having trouble getting in. It's showing again at the Monday "Best in Fest" and I suspect it may be more of the same. If you at all like Japanese cinema you should try to work it in.
If you cannot predict EVERY pairing in the first 5 minutes I'd be pretty surprised. Including the one involving the maid of the "evil" mother who is constantly spitting in the women's beverages but never gets the pleasure of having her special ingredient consumed. I'm not really sure what it is with these films - it's as if producers are under the impression that hot lesbians cover a multitude of cinematic sins. There's likely some truth in that - though in this case not enough to get it above lightweight status.
It's hard to tell if the acting is making the extremely commonplace writing better, or if both are weak. Technically it's shot well with some nice backdrops and the two women (actually most of the women) are well served by the cinematographer. I've read it was based on a book - I'm sort of suspecting this just wasn't a great adaptation to the screen.
I almost walked out - but having nothing else particular to do I stayed. Once the two women get onscreen it's tolerable overall. I'm not sure I really laughed, and with the outcome less in doubt than usual there wasn't anything interesting story wise. The two female leads are good enough along with some of the scenery (Oxford in particular comes off looking like a nice place to visit) made it a passable morning diversion. But if you're looking for a truly good in an English language romantic comedy try something else, perhaps - "Definitely, Maybe." Then find your lesbian film fix somewhere on the internet if you're that desperate.
Reading the variety review it seems the two women also starred as a couple in another recent film. I'll probably see if it's available - perhaps that's better...
Il Divo seems to be a film commissioned by the Nixon library to point out how much worse he could have been. The film is based on the life of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti who served as a power broker in politics for many years. A political film that plays more like the Godfather than a film about a politician. It's very fast paced, and if you're not already well versed on Italian politics it's challenging to absorb more than 50% of the content. The film maker does provide an "Italian Glossary" at the start which is helpful. But if you're quickly lost, trust me - it's not just you.
Andreotti seems to have amassed tremendous power and he's shown (or technically not directly shown) putting it to use with opponents falling (or being shot) left and right. You're left with the impression that he believes he's doing it for good - but at the same time you're thinking that it sounds like a justification Don Corleone used. With the mafia references it may sound as though I'm employing a stereotype. But it's a connection that's clearly intended from the film. And not just because of Andreotti's reputed ties to the mafia.
The film is extremely visually stylized and filled with fast paced music. It's really a lot of fun to watch. Fun perhaps if it's not your country. Pretty strong recommendation on this one.
It's not at all bad, technically well done, perhaps occasionally a little confusing. I'm not sure I fully understand the transformative symbolism of Vaclav's third act, pre-imprisonment "happy ending." Regardless, I never really got deeply into the characters which hurt its chance to really grab me. But the view into rural Czech living was an interesting change of pace.
- Based on a true story. The filmmakers were at the screening and did a good job with the Q&A.
- My first, first hand experience with Palm Springs crazy goings on. The woman on my left was involving in a bit of shouting with the (not so much) gentleman on my right. Admittedly she was talking (to herself about the film) but he was truly an ass about it. More exciting than the woman being kicked out with the (non service) dog but also more annoying.
You can read Nina Paley describing how this will work - but in short to quote her directly:
PBS enjoys a special privilege among broadcasters: they can legally broadcast music without having to clear individual master or synchronization licenses. That means even while Sita is in copyright jail, she can still legally air on PBS. WNET is hoping to be the first of many PBS affiliates to air the film. You can write or call your local PBS affiliate and ask them to broadcast Sita too!
His staff have love issues (often ridiculously loudly complained about) that periodically also threaten the business. Then out of the blue his ex-wife dies and he's got two young kids. One of the odder things about the film is how little impact the death seems to have on anyone. If I had to sum it up it in an overly simplistic and unfair way - it sort of plays like a parody of a Pedro Almodóvar film blended with the "dick and fart" jokes of Kevin Smith. That's not really meant to be as complimentary as it sounds.
At first I was hating it, then I got into it - and that gradually faded the longer it went on. By the end I'd settled into slotting it as a "pleasant diversion" but not much more than that. Don't go hungry because even though the over sexualization of the food is a turn off at times, you're still going to be suddenly aware you haven't eaten in a while if that's the case.
Not as good as I'd hoped - but the female lead is compelling enough to make it (mostly) work. All the usual pieces you'd expect in world cinema where someone questions their faith turn up - your beliefs vs. what you're born into, should you worry if your faith is the only one predicting the impending end of the world?, hypocritical elders/parents, an intense concern with inappropriate fornication, with teenage hormones thrown in. Come to think of it the films a stone's throw from Footloose. But in this case dancing is OK. Perhaps not really so close...
Solid, not a huge standout - but an interesting enough glimpse into a different culture for a mild recommend.
First off, apparently it's hard out there for a police in France. Seems they're dropping like flies and feel they feel as though they don't have a chance. Tasked with fighting drug dealing in the suburbs against often violent gangs you immediately get the sense they're overwhelmed - especially emotionally. The chief is a middle aged woman whom seems to be generally supported by the men of her command. In wake of a tragedy two new recruits are assigned to the precinct. At first the other officers seem concerned they'll spend more time protecting the new guys than doing their job (and protecting themselves). But one of the men proves his worth by being able to speak directly with the immigrants living in the projects - getting what may (or may not) be a big tip into the dealings of the local gang.
At first it seems like a gritty police procedural - right down to the emphasis on darkened scene. Then, in a moment following an adrenaline rush - the chief begins a relationship with one of the men. How this may change her perspective, her job and her life blends into the rest of the police narrative. Thrown further into the mix are other boundary crossing relationships between the police and the community. Including one celebratory scene that briefly evoked memories of the climax of "The Secret of the Grain." I'll stop there - either you're intrigued enough to try it or not - and there's no point in knowing the whole story ahead of time.
I'm glad I took a day to write about this. It definitely grew on me in the interim. At the time I saw it I'd probably have rated it a 3/5, now I'm closer to 4.
Here's what I'm getting at. Can someone please explain how a director who likely spent a good chunk of their time making the film look great, applying to festivals, shipping it around the world etc. doesn't do what needs to be done to ensure the dialog is readable? It's not as though it's not obvious regardless of the language. So far as I know there are no languages with invisible characters. Even if you don't know the format of the language the fact that characters fade in or out as the camera shifts is a pretty big clue. Don't even get me started on the topic of positioning them a bit too low...
I sincerely believe the film makers want their work to be seen. And I guess I'd be surprised if there's a significant price difference between readable and not readable. So I'm sure there must be a reason. Can anyone explain?....
Set in Japan during World War II it follows a family where the father's "thought crimes" force the mother to raise the two daughters largely on her own. Of course the "crimes" are ones most modern audiences are going to think are the right thoughts to be having. The family is helped by neighbors and a former student of the husband. Filled with drama and strong performances it shows both the human cost of a man standing up for his beliefs in a society that ill tolerated dissent. But at the same time highlights the support and humanity of friends and relatives. As in all his films the look of the film is one of it's charms.
I could talk more about the story - but you're better off if I don't. If you liked the director's other work odds are you'll like this one. If you haven't you might want to add the three other films I mentioned above to your Netflix queue.
My first film was Terribly Happy, a Danish black comedy about policeman who's sentenced to penance at an out of the way town. There's a bit of an off kilter Twin Peaks property to the endeavor from the get go. Complete with the little girl pushing a stuffed animal laden pram about town, the three prominent citizens playing cards in a barren room, and the ominous "we handle things ourselves here" intro from the townsfolk. Of course as every good law man the new officer arrives with his own "past" to be dealt with. Throw in a femme fatale, people mysteriously gone missing, a voice over about problems being disposed of in the bog and away things go...
Reading the description I was hoping for something truly great such as Adam's Apples of a few years ago. This is less outright funny and more ironic black comedy. It's not at all bad, but I can't put it in the "must see" camp. If you're analysis prone there's a fair amount to talk over, around fate, the decisions we make, and how far would you go to secure a regular fourth in your regular card game.
I hadn't looked at the nominations previously, so I was pretty surprised to find Vicky Cristina Barcelona competing in the "comedy/musical" category. Come to think of it I wouldn't have put In Bruges in that grouping either - but it makes more sense to me than Vicky Cristina.
Regardless - let's take a quick look at the winners. I'm not going to comment on the TV awards - as I feel they're all tainted by the continued ignoring of The Wire. If your awards don't include that show it's pretty hard to take any of it seriously in my book.
Best Feature (Drama): Slumdog Millionaire
Best Feature (Comedy): Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Actor (Drama): Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Actress (Drama): Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Actor (musical or comedy): Colin Farrell, In Bruges
Actress (musical or comedy): Sally Hawkins Happy-Go-Lucky
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Foreign Language Film: Waltz with Bashir (Israel)
Animated Feature Film: Wall-E
Original song: "The Wrestler", Bruce Springsteen, from The Wrestler
A full description of the nominees and winners is here with additional coverage by the NYTime's blogger here. But neither fully explain why In Bruges won a best actor award. Nor why The Wrestler didn't earn a best picture nomination at all (though glad Rourke won - even though it's a tough call with Frank Langella). But then again trying to pic "the best" when it comes to films is pretty darn silly - and really just an excuse to see who can put on the silliest looking dress for the occasion.
I've since read that both Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (playing Frost) originated the roles in the original stage production. Their earlier practice has really paid off - and the adaptation for the screen doesn't have that "stagey" feel that sometimes makes the film version of a play seem off.
Langella will likely be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Nixon - and that seems more than reasonable. For the first time I got a sense as to why someone who comes across as so unlikeable could have commanded such political success. If you didn't know what he'd actually done it would be easy to be caught up in his intellectual skill and rambling stories. It's true that the film does end up making Nixon a bit more sympathetic than may be deserved. Though it could be less the film than that a current day comparison with the departing President improves Nixon's relative standing. Either way, I got caught up in the acting and even though the ending is well known the ride was worth taking.
This may conclude my "potential Academy Award" big picture viewing for the year. Looking at the various prediction lists I've probably gotten everything I'm going to get a chance to see. Unfortunately, I'm still light on the "foreign" category films - but given my decision to attend the second half of Palm Springs there's not too much that can be done on that front. Thankfully, the eventual nominees will probably make their way into a theater - so I can at least look forward to seeing them eventually on the big screen.
Why? - She's a great actress and if this year is any indication she's just going to keep making serious minded and depressing movies until you give her one. Once she's won - who knows how many great and fun movies she's likely to star in. That way we can see her in a movie without all the strange feelings that come along with her latest (albeit impressive) work. You know what I mean - the life crushing depression of Revolutionary Road, the "hey, how strange is it that I think the former Nazi guard looks great naked?" questions posed by The Reader - that sort of thing.
I'm not saying she needs to be in "He's Not that Into You 2" for me to be happy. Just that maybe something a little lighter but no less brilliant might come along once the thirst for an Oscar is quenched. You know, like a sequel to Titanic or Mama Mia!...
They also have a (fairly slow link) to some live-blogging activity. At least partially contributed by someone who appears to be a pirate.
Spend some time going through this stuff I watched at least 192 movies in 2008 so you didn't have to go it alone. ;-)
Some of the best
- Ballast (USA)*
- Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (USA)
- Boy A (UK)
- Brick Lane (UK)
- Cherry Blossoms - Hanami (Germany)*
- Definitely, Maybe
- Frozen River (US)
- It's Hard to Be Nice (Bosnia)
- Jar City (Iceland)
- Leroy (Germany)*
- Let the Right One In (Sweden)*
- Love and Honor (Japan)
- Mermaid (Russia)
- O'Horten (Norway)*
- Secret of the Grain (France)*
- Sita Sings the Blues (USA)*
- Still Walking (Japan)*
- Strangers (Israel)
- The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret)*
- The Counterfeiters (Fälscher, Die)*
- The Edge of Heaven (Germany)*
- The Song of Sparrows (Iran)
- The Visitor*
- The Wrestler*
- Trouble the Water (USA)
- Waltz with Bashir (Israel)
- Gran Torino
- 21 (USA) - Awesome story, incredibly boring movie. Buy one of the two books on the subject instead. It'll probably cost you less and it's way more interesting.
- Action Boys (South Korea) - Really not that bad - but it was such a letdown because it sounded so good. Documentary about students at a Korean stunt artist school.
- Apollo 54 (Italy) - Great concept - but gets old very fast. But I do respect the attempt.
- August (USA) - Too stupid for words. 21 only bored me - this got me mad for insulting my intelligence. Even if you know nothing about technology you'll likely get that they'd completely full of BS.
- Battle in Seattle (USA) - The opening night film at the Seattle International Film Festival this year. With a name like this it's got to be an opening film for SIFF - but it doesn't have to be good. Too strong an example of tell me vs. show-me film making. But an audience member indicated it clearly showed "the heart of the activist" - so I may have no idea what I'm talking about. Most of the cast drives a Prius - learned that fun fact at the Q&A instead of beating the line to the after party bar. Big mistake.
- Control Alt Delete (Canada) - Story about a man fucking a PC - literally. Hitting one with a baseball bat I understand. Copulation, not so much. How you ask? Imagine power tools, circular holes being cut and bubble wrap. Then again, don't. It might sound entertaining enough to see.
- Em (USA) - Walked out - could have missed the best part of the film about a depressing as heck mental health challenged relationship. Perhaps a bit too real for my taste- so if that's your idea of entertainment you could look at this one very differently I suppose.
- Magnus (Estonia) - Suicidal Estonian pop-star in a film that makes us sit and wait for the inevitable. And then when you think it's over it gets even less fun.
- Slingshot (Philippines) - Just did not click for me. If you want a great feel for the slums on Manila it might work. Bet Collector or Blink are more entertaining films in a similar universe.
- Sonetuala (Italy) - The longest movie ever made. Or maybe it just seemed that way. Some beautiful shots of the Italian countryside. Covers the better part of a man's life - and feels that way.
- The 3 Little Pigs (Canada) - Who says Canadians can't be assholes? Three men acting like pigs in relationship sounds like it could be fun. This one wasn't for me. I've met folks who disagree - so I could have just caught it on a bad day.
- X-Files: I Want to Believe - I really wanted to believe - as did the investors I'd expect. But sometimes you've just got to stop when you're only significantly behind. Not a huge surprise it wasn't good - but if you're going to make a movie of a show with a solid fan base please, please, please resist the urge to ensure "anyone" can see it and appreciate it. Unless it's Batman everyone's going to be disappointed.
- All Inclusive (Mexico)
- American Teen (US)
- Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (USA)
- Ghost Town (USA)
- God's Puzzle (Japan) - a small caveat. This isn't really great (though with some editing it might be) but the all-in approach made for an "I can't believe they're throwing that in now" good time.
- Late Bloomers (Switzerland)
- My Effortless Brilliance (USA)
- Ploy (Thailand)
- The Witch of the West Is Dead (Japan)
- Timecrimes (Spain)
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Welcome to the Sticks (France)
- A Man Named Pearl (USA)
- American Teen (US)
- Anvil! The Story of Anvil (USA)
- Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (USA)
- Heavy Metal in Baghdad (USA)
- Man on Wire (UK)
- Trouble the Water (USA)
- Up the Yangtze (Canada)
In related news Nina Paley is starting to define a supporters credits for cash approach for people who want to make a donation to getting the film's issues sorted out. You can read more here.
- Ken Rudolph who may blog more movies per year than anyone else on earth has a section reserved for his Palm Springs entries.
- Palm Springs Savant - is a local PS blog that has some coverage. Though it seems to be more focused on the parties than the films.
- The simply named Dave's Blog is written by someone who this year is one of the volunteer coordinators with the festival
- Film-415 has some of the most specific suggestions I've seen - though (sadly for him) under the heading of "films I'd see if I could attend this year"
- And of course there's the official (if lower traffic of postings) festival blog.
Update (1/7) - Thanks for Deborah posting on the official festival blog I now have a link to some ongoing local coverage via the Desert Sun.
In addition to more traditional coverage they're also running a live blog.
Update (1/11) - The Big & Small Screen joins the list of blogs with Palm Springs '09 coverage in progress.
First off we have the main story, Kate Winslet plays a former Nazi prison guard (Hannah) who has an affair with a 15 year old boy (pictured to the left). They're together for a summer and then she disappears. At the time he doesn't know more than she wants to sleep with him and likes to have him read to her - nothing about her past. Years later he's in law school and attending a trial of former Nazi's he sees her as one of the main defendants. She's unrepentant - in her view she was being paid to do a job and she did it. Without the earlier scenes there'd be nothing to soften her image at all - and as a movie goer and a an average human being you'd see nothing but a monster. But the boy - now a young man sees something else. My understanding from casual checking is that the book this is based on is also telling a story about the inter generational relationships of Germans who were children (or grandchildren I suppose) of those of adult age during the Holocaust. I'd imagine it's a pretty complex relationship when you grow up and those you love as a child or grandchild may have participated as part of such true evil - or more likely lived through it without rising up against it.
In some ways it seems to actively try and create this emotional disconnect - and does it somewhat successfully - even if I felt manipulated in the process. You meet Hannah in what from the boys perspective at first is a wonderful relationship. The early sexual scenes between the two - which are shot as artistic and loving seem there to soften her later image. But as Thelma Adams pointed out this isn't a true proper relationship - technically it's child abuse. In her description she writes as though it wasn't intentional. But for me watching I felt that is was intended to explain the later results in the boy's life. He has intense feelings for her - and as a 15 year old, being educated sexually by example - at first it comes across as sort of a "lucky break." But the impact on the rest of his life seems devastating. By all appearances he has serious difficulties forming relationships with those his own age, his marriage almost immediately ends in divorce, he's partially estranged from his daughter and his parents, etc. All seemingly from the impact of the early interactions with Hannah. Perhaps it's a metaphor for the impact the older generation had in scarring the younger in Germany of that period. Perhaps it's just a twisted take on a relationship in post WW-II Germany. He's unable to fully disengage from her even after she goes to prison - losing a good piece of his life in the process.
Ralph Fiennes plays the older version of the boy - as the tortured adult he's become. To get into much greater detail would likely give away some of the few remaining plot points that aren't casually bandied about. So I'll stop here for now.
It is a very visually beautiful film - though the subject matter seems at odds with it's beauty. Some reviews have mentioned the artistic touch seems out of place at time such as during the boy's visit to a former concentration camp. But I thought those scenes were well done in terms of showing the impact of the actor in the scene - and were more dramatic than "beautiful." Kate Winslet as always does a fine job - with a very unsympathetic role. But once you understand "the secret" discussed in the posters it's really, really hard to see this as a reasonable explanation for the actions of the characters that follow. At least for me it was. Using the professional tools of the trade the movie effectively tugs at the various emotions. When they're over the victims Hannah abused in the war or the lesser survivor (Ray Fiennes) that's OK. But when it veers closer the the Nazi's who liked literature are people too it left me with a creepy feeling - it just took a while after leaving the theater for it to fully set in.
and Leonardo DiCaprio on screen for the first time since Titanic. Apparently friends off-screen they seem to enjoy very convincingly making each other's characters miserable on screen as well. Whether you'll be wowed or just bummed by the experience may depend on your mood.
I did somewhat enjoy watching them argue with each other enough to be glad I saw the film. More for watching the craft than really the story. For that reason I can't quite recommend it. If you want a desperate due to un-realized (if vague) dreams in suburbia I'd point you first to American Beauty. But if you really like Winslet or DiCaprio you may want to go nonetheless. Winslet's not a super likable character here - though decidedly more so than her unrepentant Nazi in The Reader (review in progress). And she gets to traipse around in much more elegant outfits than in the other film. And as always Ms. Winslet continues to be rather easy on the eyes. The aforementioned outfits stay on throughout - apparently in the 50's sex could be on your counter top but it didn't involve removing much in the way of clothing - and took 30 seconds max (possibly less if in a car).
The story? Right - Leo and Kate meet and fall in love as young hipsters with the world at their feet and nary an iceberg in sight. They imagine great things - but instead settle for just decent things - namely a house in suburbia (with great kitchen cabinets) and a couple of kids. Feeling they're in a rut (especially her being trapped at home) they come up with a plan to move with the kids to Paris. Which by today's standards doesn't seem so ridiculous - but is met with clear shock from their friends and co-workers. It's never quite clear to me why they don't take the simpler step of moving back to New York from Connecticut - but seeing as how they're just looking to find the "great things" their lives were destined for without specific purpose it's not really a logic driven initiative. Along the way everyone makes everyone else pretty miserable. At times the only fully sane character appears to be the friends son home from a psychiatric institution - who lends some of the best moments to the film.
So if that sounds like it'd be fun to drive home dissecting why they're so unhappy, and if it doesn't sound too close to your personal reasons for seeing life as miserable check it out. Just don't say I (or the trailers) didn't warn you. It's great looking, well acted, etc. so I sort of do recommend it if you're trying to round out your knowledge of Oscar hopefuls. I just think it's important to go in when you're feeling in the right frame of mind for this sort of thing.
Then I came back and watched Meryl Streep play the exact opposite role - and both performances were impressive. Here she plays a nun so by the book that she doesn't want Frosty the Snowman sung at the Christmas party due to some clear (in her mind) connection to magic/paganism or the like. So in short, if you attended a Catholic school I suspect this may be the scariest film you've seen since Showgirls.
Ah - but what's the story?...
Priest is alone with a altar boy. Child is upset afterwards - priest doesn't want to talk about it. Seems pretty clear what's going on - right? And not just because the priest is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Instead the next 120 minutes challenge our assumptions repeatedly - even if your own doubt only sets in on the way home from the theater. This film is definitely on my recommended list.
Admittedly, the film's a bit heavy handed at times - particularly with it's visual cues. For example, contrasting the quiet, milk drinking nuns with the red meat eating, back slapping loud-mouthed priests. And the level of wind with falling stuff as metaphor may have no equal since Dorothy dropped a house on a wicked witch. But overall it kept me interested in ways I didn't fully expect going in. Which makes it worth the price of admission (and I did pay having missed a least two free screenings).
Random highlights for me
- Pivotal scene with the boy's mother and Streep. Don't want to say more other than if Viola Davis can't get an Oscar nomination after going toe to toe with Streep I'd be pretty surprised.
- Amy Adams' journey through the film as the nice/innocent nun in the school. As the anti-Streep she loves Frosty and at least at first trusts the children to react to her kindness.
- Streep's performance. I'm actually not one to seek out her films. But the simple touches that let her bring out some humanity and humor (regardless of what the New Yorker wrote) in the character is what kept me interested.
I left thinking I knew what had happened with a fair degree of certainty. But the more I thought about it and talked about it I realized I wasn't really sure. Given our position in history and knowing how much damage was done to victims of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church - precisely because there were so many who wouldn't draw a clear line in the sand makes it hard to fault the Meryl Streep character too much. Not sure how much other hints there were in the stage version. But the reason Streep gives for being certain seemed pretty clearly telegraphed on screen and had me reaching the same conclusions - and I think overall I'm still there.
The film's website is here - if you think I'm exaggerating just take a quick look over there and see how many festivals have given it an award. It goes on and on and on. At least you can buy a T-shirt. Don't laugh - apparently it does more good than you'd guess.
Something I noticed that really puts the wackiness of Nina Paley not being able to get her film out without throwing down a wad of cash in perspective. At Amazon right now you can download an album full of Annette Hanshaw music as MP3's 24 of them for $7.99 - many of which are used in the film. Given that I'd never have thought of even looking for this music before seeing Sita hopefully eventually the folks with the recording rights might decide to take a chance on the promotional lift a movie centered around these great songs could provide.