Category Archives: War

Syria-Themed Documentary Shorts Are of the Times

The White Helmets.jpg
“The White Helmets”

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.”

Continue reading Syria-Themed Documentary Shorts Are of the Times

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On My DVR: “Night Will Fall” (2014)

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.

New York Film Festival Preview: The Gatekeepers

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZepXBymtkUQ]

Screening: Thursday, October 11, 9pm

Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC

Series: NYFF50: Main Slate

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

Genre: Documentary

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.

2012 Fall Film Guide

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

September 5, 2012

Labor Day has passed, and now it’s time to consider this year’s crop of what will inevitably be considered some of Oscar’s biggest fodder. It’s no surprise that when it comes to the Academy Awards, the movies that are most likely to be honored with a nomination are those that are released towards the end of the year. Some of this year’s frontrunners appear to be ArgoDjango UnchainedThe Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyHyde Park on HudsonLife of PiLincolnThe MasterLes MisérablesSilver Linings PlaybookWreck-It Ralph, and Zero Dark Thirty. Of course, there’s plenty of other flicks to look forward to, spanning all genres and audience interests.

Note: All non-authored pieces’ loglines are courtesy of IMDb.com.

Continue reading 2012 Fall Film Guide

New Poster Released for LINCOLN

Is there any side profile more famous than Lincoln’s? The penny has nothing on this newly released poster for Steven Spielberg’s new release starring Daniel Day-Lewis. The actor seems ready to snatch his third Oscar for this one. The formula is there: fall release, true story, a historic and tragic figure, period piece, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The film also stars an amazing cast of veterans, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes, Walton Goggins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.

Lincoln opens November 16.

Tarsem: Past, Present, Future

There’s plenty that India has given us that is worthy of our utmost appreciation: the Taj Mahal, curry chicken, Bollywood. Nope. Scratch that. I could live without Bollywood. But I couldn’t live without filmmaker Tarsem Singh (or just Tarsem). That’s not true, either. I could live without him, but then the world of cinematic wonders that I so greatly enjoy would be without the color and imagination that Tarsem so expertly infuses into it.

He’s only released two films to date with a third release coming up in November and another currently in production, but even before his films, Tarsem has been a success in the world of music videos and advertising. His first major work was the award-winning video for R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” From there, he went on to direct some of advertising’s most recognized and awarded TV spots for clients like Levi’s, Nike, Pepsi, Reebok, Coca-Cola, and others.

Continue reading Tarsem: Past, Present, Future

Hit & Miss: Another Earth, The Devil’s Double

I’m usually a pretty good judge of movies before even watching them. I can often tell whether I think a movie is going to be good or bad based on the trailer, logline, filmmaker, cast, or any other factor. Of course, this is not unique to me. Many of us have this super power. But every now and then, my senses go awry and I find myself in disbelief. Here are a couple of recent examples:

Hit

ANOTHER EARTH

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8hEwMMDtFY]

Going In: I’m not much for sci-fi, and after having seen the trailer, I just had a feeling—this is not going to be a good movie. And that’s a shame, because Fox Searchlight is my favorite distributor—but hey, even Fox Searchlight is entitled to a not-so-great movie once in a while. (Has anyone seen The Tree of Life?) Another Earth looked sleepy, boring, quiet, and any other number of synonyms that describe bland.

Stepping Out: BEST. MOVIE. OF. THE. YEAR. (so far) I can’t believe how wrong I was with this one. Brit Marling. Remember that name. She wrote, produced, and stars in this micro-budget indie that was directed by Mike Cahill. Nearly everything about this film is perfect. The dynamic performances. The breathtaking cinematography. The mesmerizing music. And most especially, the complex characters in a simple, original story. It just goes to show you, a film’s budget is no barometer for how good a movie is. The writing is (among other things). You can go into space with a tight script. And this film is proof.

Miss

THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auE1FAGP1Kc]

Going In: The true story of the man who was forced to act as Uday Hussein’s double. (That’s Saddam’s son, folks.) I was easily intrigued, quite simply because I hadn’t seen anything like this before. And speaking of something I haven’t seen before, (based on the trailer) it looked like Dominic Cooper was turning in a performance unlike any other he’s done. I’m sold.

Stepping Out: WTF! Sure, there is gory violence, but this film isn’t nearly as gritty as I thought it would be. Sure, Cooper’s performance is solid, but that’s pretty much all this Lee Tamahori-helmed film has going for it. It’s glitzy, golden visuals are clearly implied in the trailer and poster, but I was mostly going into this film with the overall concept in mind. Clearly, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. This film resembled more of a flashy music video than any film worth my time. (I was actually expecting something on par with The Hurt Locker, in style and substance.) Mind you, I didn’t hate it—and “not hating it” is the best compliment I can offer.

Apocalypse Now Intro.

In honor of tomorrow’s apocalypse, enjoy this clip of the opening of Apocalypse Now (1979), one of the greatest films ever made.

On My DVR: Wings (1927)

Currently on my DVR is the 1927 classic Wings. It’s the story of two men—one rich and one middle class—who share a common interest in the same woman as they become fighter pilots during World War I. Starring one of the biggest actresses of the time, Clara Bow plays a woman whose affections for one of the pilots are largely unnoticed. A 25-year-old Gary Cooper appears in this classic.

Wings earned the distinction of being the very first Best Picture Oscar winner. It’s also the only silent film to win the award. During that very first Oscar ceremony in 1929, the film beat out The Racket and 7th Heaven for the Outstanding Picture honor. It also went on to win for its “engineering effects,” a category that only existed that first year.

Director: William Wellman
Screenwriters: John Monk Saunders, Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton
Producers: B.P. Schulberg, Lucien Hubbard (uncredited)
Cast: Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen, Jobyna Ralston
Genres: Drama, Romance, War
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 139 min.