The 2014 Oscar Nominations were announced today and at EnClave LA, we’re particularly interested in reviewing documentaries and foreign films. Here are the nominated films for Best Foreign Language Film and Documentary Feature, what our nominated films would have been, and who we predict to win.
Another year another BS Award season concerned more with popularity and politics in the showbiz… but here’s my Top 5 Foreign and Documentary list, for those fanatics of good cinema not to miss:
1. The Grandmaster (China)
Even in its cut American version, Wong Kar-Wai’s Grandmaster is everything I love about his films, unrequited love, style and form, and in this case, a story about a historical Chinese leyend, Ip Man, full of action and drama. The absence of his DP Christopher Doyle cemented now that his slow-mo, extreme close up style is all him, which, depending on personal predilection, it’s a plus or a minus. As a fan, the film delivered in all the expectations, this is a movie to watch in theatres!
2. Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
I wasn’t expecting to like this film about a tragic love and country music, but, the passion that writer/star Johan Heldenbergh brings to the film, which is based on a play he wrote and personal experieces, along with co-star Veerle Baetens, make this not only my second pick but one of my top 10 film of the year. It better win the Academy Award!
3. La Grande Bellezza (Italy)
I was pleasently surprised that such an artistic trip of a film would be submitted to the Academy. I love films that don’t follow the three act formula and take you for an unexpected trip, this movie is not about the story but the journey taken by the lead, the less you know the better, but expect to have a trip into a crazy world!
4. In Bloom (Georgia)
What I liked about this coming of age film is how it takes you inside of another culture, their customs and how they differ from our own. This tale of two best friends and how an eveng on their lives will change them and their friendship was one of my favorites at last years AFI.
5. The Hunt
I saw this film at 2012’s AFI Fest, then again last year, and my opinion is still the same, a strong subject and a good film, but actor Mads Mikkelsen, one of my favorite “new” actors, makes this film a must see. How easy can one man’s life be ruined by rumors and assumptions? In the world we live in, it’s so easy to lose it all…
My guess and money goes to The Great Beauty winning the statue. Safe and non-controversial, it will take the gold!
1. The Act of Killing
By far the BEST documentary of the year, this incredible premise of giving heartless war criminals a chance to tell the story in their own way by having them make a movie about their crimes -even using people from villages where these murders took place- is by far the craziest premise and the most intense. A MUST see!
2. Dirty Wars
A journalist looks behind the curtain on the ugly aspects of this “War on Terror” the US government has in the Middle East. Yes, one can claim that these are “Unknown Knowns” (pun intended, another great film by Eroll Morris) but it’s still shocking how these war crimes go unpunished or unquestioned by the people.
3. The Square
A look into Egypt’s revolution from the inside, what the people wanted and what they got, their struggles, and how we only caught a piece of the action. It is interesting how the US media controls what information we get, this is what happened, how people from different religions got together to fight oppression…and what they won in the end. The fight must go on!
Animal cruelty is not something on considers when going to Sea World, but, after seeing this, there is no going back. Free Willie! This intense look at how dangerous the business is for trainers and inhumane for whales, will make anyone who watches rethink about going into the industry – or for those with a heart – going to these places.
5. Crash Reel
Lucy Walker’s in-depth look on snowboarding and the dangers of the business deserves a look on the big screen given the amazing footage she got – from the snowboarders themselves – and music -she‘s also a DJ- within. Is it worth it? After a terrible accident, Kevin Pearce contemplates the idea, against everyone’s wishes, to return, even though it may kill him. The drama that ensues and how the business is run will surprise many fans of the sport.
The Act of Killing HAS to win! Werner Herzog’s name attached -as a producer- should help this happen. ~ Humberto
I’m with you on that one, Humberto. I don’t care about lavish, self-congratulatory awards ceremonies either but I’ll gladly use them as a platform to highlight worthy films that are often overlooked!
1. Wajdja (Saudi Arabia)
I was absolutely charmed by this first-ever feature from Saudi Arabia, by its first-time female director Haifaa Al Mansour, and newcomer Waad Mohammed. In a country where cinemas are banned and women are forbidden many rights we take for granted (like driving or associating with other men in public), the movie is a rare and humanizing glimpse behind a culture misunderstood here and judging by recent headlines, is on the cusp of a female revolution. My full review here.
2. Two Lives (Germany)
It took director Georg Maas 10 years to bring this story, based on true events, to the screen. It’s a powerfully searing look at the forgotten history of Norway and Germany’s treatment of children fathered by German soldiers during WW2. Told through the eyes of one of these children reunited with her Nowegian mother (in what is legendary actress Liv Ulmann’s final performance), the story of betrayal stuck with me long after I left the theater.
3. Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much either but wow! One of the most fiery on-screen romances combined with great music and a heartbreaking story make this punch to the gut. To learn that the lead actors aren’t professional musicians but went on to perform at sold-out concerts with the soundtrack being the most successful music album in Belgium’s history just makes this my pick as the underdog winner!
4. In Bloom (Georgia)
A gorgeous, captivating coming-of-age film from both a country (Georgia) and a period of its history (Soviet era) that is not well-known here. I absolutely fell in love with the 2 lead actresses and how much their opposite personalities both contrasted and complemented their friendship through all the hardships they encountered.
5. The Past (Iran)
Asghar Farhadi who won the Oscar 2 years ago for Best Foreign Language with A Separation is back with another tale of domestic melancholy but this time, deals with a reunion of two lovers. French-Argentinian actress Bérénice Bejo smolders on screen and won Best Actress at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival but alas, the Academy probably deemed the movie too similar to previous Farhadi outings.
As much as Humberto liked The Great Beauty, I detested it’s long-windiness and meandering narrative and again, my money is on the Academy being won over by the underdog lovers and their passion for Americana.
My documentary picks pretty much echo those of Humberto so no need to rehash them here. One that I want to give special mention to is Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, that takes us behind the headlines, like The Square and Dirty Wars, and gives us a deeper look at 3 very captivating, intelligent women behind the movement against patriarchy, corruption and intolerance in Russia.
I would love for The Square to take the statue back to Egypt but I think Humberto’s got a point — the Academy can’t resist stories of (supposed) redemption especially when all it took was to be made the star in one’s own movie…so 2 votes for Act of Killing! ~ Tom