Two months ago, I encouraged several people to watch this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. My only instruction: have tissues handy. Hard-hitting themes ranged from Syria, to end-of-life decisions in an ICU, to Syria, to the Holocaust, to Syria.
So months before the White House fired its missiles in the direction of the Middle Eastern country this week, the Academy was providing us privileged folk sitting in soft recliners with varied perspectives on the crisis that’s happening halfway around the world—where instead of privilege there are regular shellings, and instead of soft recliners there are scared children. The nominated documentaries, “The White Helmets” (the eventual winner), “Watani: My Homeland,” and “4.1 Miles” each offer a completely different take on Syria’s civil war, and each gives us reason to care. This is essential viewing. Below I give a brief synopsis for each film, including the full version of “4.1 Miles.”
As the 53rd New York Film Festival wrapped with Closing Night selection Miles Ahead, a bio-drama on “social music” (don’t call it jazz) legend Miles Davis, starring and helmed by Don Cheadle in his directorial debut, it’s time to look back on some of the Festival’s best offerings.
BRIDGE OF SPIES
In Steven Spielberg’s Cold War-era drama, Tom Hanks plays a Brooklyn insurance lawyer who must broker a sensitive prisoner exchange with the USSR. Once again, Spielberg proves he’s at the top of his craft. Hanks turns in a solid performance, but it’s supporting player Mark Rylance who steals his scenes as a Soviet spy with his too-cool-it’s-unnerving performance.
The 23rd edition of the Hamptons International Film Festival launched its five-day run last Thursday with Opening Night selection Truth, the true newsroom drama starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford. With a healthy selection of world premieres and Oscar hopefuls (including nine foreign language submissions), the festival is primed to bring some of the world’s best cinema to Long Island. Here’s a small sampling of what’s on the slate.
When I heard that a lost Hitchcock film was found, I knew I had to learn more, even if it were a doc, perhaps unlike anything he had previously made. As a huge Hitch fan, I’m looking forward to learning more about the film that researchers only recently uncovered.
Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
Researchers discover film footage from World War II that turns out to be a lost documentary shot by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein in 1945 about German concentration camps.
Director: André Singer Screenwriter: Lynette Singer Cast: Helena Bonham Carter (narrator), Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Bernstein Distributor: HBO Documentary Films Runtime: 75 min.
This morning, the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced. View all nominees here.
If you’re like me, you watch as many of the nominated films as possible before the ceremony (on February 22 this year). Got some catching up to do? Watch 11 of the nominated films, currently on Netflix.
Who would have thought the year’s greatest thriller would be a documentary? In the days following Citizenfour’s world premiere at the New York Film Festival last Friday, various news and entertainment outlets have been lauding filmmaker Laura Poitras’s achievement, and rightfully so. Of all the films this reviewer screened at the 52nd New York Film Festival, none has left an impact quite as deep as Citizenfour.
Summer may not officially begin until June 21, but “summer movies” have already begun to make waves at the box office. And while filmgoers succumb to the traditional summer movie fare—including superheroes and sequels, Transformers and talking apes—the indie box office is primed to serve up something different with a bit more depth. This summer, we challenge you to venture beyond the shallow side of the pool and dive into the deep end. Here’s our annual Top 10 list of what you will find there.
In the past few weeks, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed the shortlists for all short film categories for the 2013 Oscars. Official nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014. Here’s what will be vying for a nomination in all three categories:
“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me),” Esteban Crespo, director (Producciones Africanauan)
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything),” Xavier Legrand, director, and Alexandre Gavras, producer (KG Productions)
“Dva (Two),” Mickey Nedimovic, director, and Henner Besuch, director of photography (Filoufilm Dani Barsch)
“Helium,” Anders Walter, director, and Kim Magnusson, producer (M & M Productions)
“Kush,” Shubhashish Bhutiani, director (Red Carpet Moving Pictures)
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?),” Selma Vilhunen, director, and Kirsikka Saari, screenwriter (Tuffi Films)
Fifteen documentary features have been shortlisted for the 85th Academy Awards. Of these, five will receive nominations, which will be announced on Thursday, January 10 at 8:30am EST. The shortlisted films are as follows:
In The Gatekeepers, documentarian Dror Moreh does something unprecedented by interviewing six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service. Individually, the “gatekeepers” reflect on their successes and failures during the ongoing struggles between Israel and Palestine and the mission for peace. In what is surely considered a strong contender for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, this film is among the most astonishing documentaries of the year. (Moreh sites 2004 Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War as an inspiration.) The level of access Moreh achieves is remarkable, offering a point of view never previously heard in such a medium. The film is ripe with strong narratives as told by each of the six men, as well as varied “textures” that are achieved through sit-down interviews, revealing archival footage, well-composed graphics, and a score that underlines the visuals in a subtle-yet-impactful manner. The narrative can be a bit cumbersome to follow for those not familiar with the political and social struggles between Israel and Palestine, but even still one would be hard-pressed not to appreciate the film’s obvious achievements.
Limité Rating: 4/5
Director: Dror Moreh
Countries: Israel, France, Germany, Belgium
Language: Hebrew with English subtitles
Runtime: 97 min.
The 50th New York Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 14, 2012.