Amour

Emmanuelle Riva Hiroshima

Michael Haneke’s much-lauded Amour, which won Best Foreign Language Film last night at the Oscars, has at its center two powerhouses of modern European art cinema: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, the oldest woman ever to be nominated for an acting Oscar. The two central faces of Amour, here aged and frail, have graced screens realized by the visions of master filmmakers like Alain Resnais, Eric Rohmer, Costa-Gavras, Krysztof Keislowski, Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Franju, and Bernardo Bertolucci among others. It’s fitting that Haneke picked Trintignant and Riva to make a film about aging, for these are two performers that can be seen aging and changing on celluloid through decades of incredible work. In some ways, it’s hard to imagine European art cinema, in its many transformations, without these two faces. Here are a few of their key performances in The Criterion Collection…

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Best Picture

Here it is: the Big Kahuna of the Oscar season. Bestowed upon the producers, the Best Picture award is easily the most memorable category of the Big Six. It often coincides with a Best Director win, but with almost twice the nominations than Best Director and some high-profile snubs, there’s always a chance for an upset. Best Picture is also one of the most divisive categories out there. To target a specific talent or role, it’s easy to zero in on one element of a film. A medicore film can have fantastic, Oscar-worthy cinematography. A film that has no shot at comprehensive awards can offer a scene-stealing performance for a Best Supporting Actor or Actress win. But Best Picture? That’s as comprehensive as it gets. Since the nominations have been made and all the complaints about why certain movies weren’t on the list (like the awards-forgotten Moonrise Kingdom) have been logged, it’s now time to focus on the nine films that made the cut. While the statuette is handed to the producer of the film, it’s an honor that everyone involved in the production can enjoy. Such a picture will either become a minor all-but-forgotten footnote in Oscar history (like The Last Emperor or last year’s The Artist), or it will become a well-known winner of cinematic legend (like The Godfather or Titanic). It will also serve as great marketing copy for any future DVD or Blu-ray release from now until the end of time. Read on for the nominations […]

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Best Foreign Language Film

More so than every other category at the Academy Awards, the winners of the Best Foreign Language category are rarely the actual best film. That’s due as much to the Academy’s voters as it is to the process that sees countries having to each choose a singular film to represent their entire annual output for the year. The process leaves brilliant and fantastic films out of the running each and every time. This year’s nominees feature a rarity in that one of the films is also up for Best Picture. That’s only happened three times, and in all three cases (Algeria’s Z, Italy’s Life is Beautiful and Taiwan’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) the films won in the latter category. It seems obvious that they would simply by definition… if it’s the only one of the five up for Best Picture then isn’t it the Best Foreign Language by default? But I digress. The staggeringly problematic structure of the category aside, keep reading for a look at all five of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Language Film along with my predicted winner in red…

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Best Original Screenplay

The very foundation of any film is its screenplay. It presents the story that inspires the director’s overarching vision, and ideally it gives him or her a road map to follow on a creative journey. It creates human beings out of thin air, and it steers actors toward the motivations that will allow them to bring said human beings to life with an authenticity that makes them resonate. Adapted screenplays are often great, but there’s always an inherent compromise that comes with them. You’re taking material that worked in a different medium and trying to shoehorn it into film, even though it might have strengths or weaknesses that don’t translate to motion picture well. Thus, the award for Best Original Screenplay may be the most pure award when it comes to recognizing artists for their ability to create within the realm of cinema. Here are the original screenplays that the Academy feels best represent the potential of what film can be from this past year (with my predicted winner in red):

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Amour Movie

Amour is a very difficult movie. I would go so far as to say it’s the toughest, most painful Best Picture nominee in an awfully long time. It’s so heartbreaking and uncomfortable that I was somewhat taken aback when it pulled five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Sure, Emmanuelle Riva seemed like a good bet and it was certainly going to be ahead of the pack in the Foreign Film category, but that top-tier nomination? Only eight foreign language films have been nominated for Best Picture in the past, and only one of them (Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers) is as profoundly upsetting as Michael Haneke’s blunt portrait of love and death. It just didn’t seem likely. Obviously, I was wrong. Let’s hope that isn’t the theme of the season. In hindsight, the impressive crop of nominations for Amour makes a ton of sense. It makes so much sense that I think it has a very good shot at winning three Oscars. Here’s the case:

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ted_02037204

Once upon a time, the Oscar nominations were filled with titles unfamiliar to the regular Joe. Not unknown, necessarily, but at least not widely seen. But today, thanks to all kinds of home video platforms and theatrical distribution for even the short film nominees, it’s not always so impossible to see everything before the big night. To help those of you wishing to be completists, I’ve listed all of this year’s recently announced Oscar nominees and noted how and where you can see them, whether presently or soon enough. It may not be entirely doable, as some foreign films haven’t officially been released here, including one that doesn’t even yet have a date, and some titles are in the middle of their theatrical to DVD window. But there are a bunch that can be streamed right this moment on your computer via Amazon, Google, YouTube and other outlets, each of which I’ve marked accordingly courtesy of GoWatchIt. Only three are through Netflix Watch Instant, by the way (How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War and Mirror Mirror). And one short has been embedded in the post. 

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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trailer_beasts of southern wild

Everyone calm down. The Oscar nominations are not a disaster. They actually make for the most exciting awards season in recent memory. I know that for many of us this took a few minutes to notice. I am, frankly, still pretty ticked off about Kathryn Bigelow somehow missing a nomination for Best Director. I’d rant about this, but Monika Bartyzel over at Movies.com has already done an excellent job breaking it down. Other things aren’t so much infuriating as they are irritatingly dull, like a Best Supporting Actor category full of former winners and a studio-dominated Best Animated Feature. Add that to the embarrassing jokes Emma Stone and Seth McFarlane threw at us at 8:30AM EST, and it’s not surprising Twitter turned into a mini-maelstrom of bitter resentment. However, there is much to be stoked about! There are the little things, like four nominations for my beloved Anna Karenina. There are littler things, like Quvenzhané Wallis becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. There are the littlest things: PES’s Fresh Guacamole might be the shortest Oscar nominee in history with a running time of just over 90 seconds. Finally, the big picture is also a lot more intriguing than anyone would have guess just a few months ago.

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Best Movies of 2012

Earlier this year, we organized a vote between a bunch of internet film critics (and a handful of filmmakers) to come up with what they would cumulatively exalt as the best movies of all time. It’s not like we had to pull teeth or anything (we left our hammer at home), but compiling lists of the best movies of 2012 was a lot easier. People have just been giving away their opinions over the past few weeks. While that was a large-scale project, this ones admittedly a bit fluffier. I compiled as many Best Of lists as I could from notable online movie outlets, assigned point values for the movies listed (#10 gets 1 point, #1 gets 10 points) and plugged everything into my TI-82. It took a while to compute since I was playing this awesome game where you’re a 3-pixel wide race car and you have to avoid slamming into stuff, but the results were…

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The Best Foreign Films of 2012

The title of this list is slightly misleading in that not all of the films were released this year. The sad fact is that the vast majority of foreign language films never reach our shores, and the ones that do often appear a year or two (or more) later. So while all of the films below played in the US in 2012 (in some capacity) they may have premiered elsewhere in 2011 or earlier. Three of the titles below are also featured in my list of the 12 Best Movies of 2012. And because I know you’re curious, no, Holy Motors didn’t make the cut. (It is included in the Honorable Mentions list at the bottom of the page though!) I know every other critic loved the merde out of it, but I found it to be an occasionally engaging series of sketches highlighted by a love for cinema. Now read on for what I think are twelve better films (in alphabetical order).

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves the French. The nation has racked up 36 nominations for Best Foreign Language Film over the years, which is more than half the number of times the Academy has given the award. French-language films regularly appear outside of that category as well – the very first nomination for a foreign film was a nod for Best Art Direction to À Nous la Liberté in 1932. Oscar has been a Francophile since the very beginning, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get sick of them any time soon. As far as I’m concerned, this leaves a single burning question about this year’s race. Yes, I suppose one could wonder in great detail about Amour’s Best Picture and Best Director chances, but at this point I think it definitely gets both. The real fun is in the Best Actress category. (Isn’t it always?) Both Emmanuelle Riva and Marion Cotillard are serious contenders, enormously talented actors who have delivered some of their best work in some this year’s most-lauded French-language films. However, is it possible for two French actresses to make it in the same category? How much cachet do they really have?

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Amour

Editor’s note: With Haneke’s latest masterwork finally hitting limited release this week, please fall in love with our AFI FEST review all over again, originally published on November 4, 2012. In Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are an older couple who have clearly been together for years, but their loving glances and compliments prove that, despite the years, the love they feel for one another has never faded. Their life together now is one of simple pursuits – a night out here or there, but mainly spending time with one another making meals or reading together in their Paris apartment. At first glance, this may seem like just another couple living out their later years with each other, but when Anne suffers a minor stroke at the breakfast table one morning, the extent and depth of their love is truly put to the test. After an operation to prevent any future strokes fails, Anne is released home, where she makes Georges promise her that he will not let her go back to the hospital. Georges sets about to make their life as comfortable and normal as possible, despite the fact that Anne is now confined to a wheelchair and needs to sleep in a separate, mechanical bed — but one that Georges keeps pushed up against his own.

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The Deep Blue Sea

Well, here we go. This was the first of many a week that will keep us on our toes with a number of different awards announcements, from the critics and other precursors to the narrowing of individual Oscar categories.  We got an interesting batch of awards from the National Board of Review and an equally independent-minded assortment from the New York Film Critics Circle. Put that together with the Academy short list for Best Documentary Feature, and it’s been quite the kick-off. And, as usual, not everyone was happy. It’s not awards season unless someone is out there shouting “snub!” Let’s start with the NYFCC and the handful of unexpected choices that they made in their very long, deliberate process. Rachel Weisz came seemingly out of nowhere to win Best Actress, quite the surprise to all but the most imaginative and intelligent pundits. What did this mean? Is there lack of excitement around other, more obvious contenders? Of course, it simply means that a lot of NYC critics saw The Deep Blue Sea and loved Weisz’s performance. Yet that’s not particularly exciting to delve into, especially if you didn’t like the film.

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Django Unchained

This last month of 2012 is packed with movies to suck up our time when we need it the most. You got Tom Cruise stretching his acting muscles as an action hero, Russell Crowe singing in the shower, Matt Damon getting all teary eyed nostalgic over old America, and more. Plenty of variety before the apocalypse ruins our chance of ever seeing what Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Batman would be like. If this is our final month of filmgoing, then so be it. With Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Judd Apatow, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher McQuarie, and Gus Van Sant all jollying up our holiday season, we couldn’t ask for a better last hurrah for movies if those apocalypse rumors are proven correct. Before we all die horrible and painful deaths, make sure to see these films:

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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As 2012 begins to wind down, your trusty LA Rejects, Kate Erbland and myself, plan to take on one final film festival – Los Angeles’ AFI FEST. AFI FEST differs from June’s Los Angeles Film Festival as the cooler temperatures (cool, not cold, I know it’s LA) of November seem to bring out slightly heavier fare. Plus, AFI FEST is located in the heart of Hollywood with many screenings taking place at the historic Grauman’s Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, giving further weight and importance to the selections shown during the festival. This year, AFI FEST brings us some of the year’s most talked-about films while also getting in a few last world premieres. The festival boasts an impressive list of titles on its roster, but we have rounded up the six must-see films that should be on the radar (and schedules) of all festival attendees. And for those who cannot attend, make note to track these films down when they come to you. AFI FEST runs from November 1st until November 8th.

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This year’s New York Film Festival ended on Sunday night with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight, a big Hollywood movie that many saw as too mainstream a selection for the event. But it’s apparently decent enough to currently have a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes — our own Jack Giroux gave it a “B” in his review from the fest — so it’s not like they closed things out with Alex Cross. Other big movies that some didn’t see as fitting were opening night film Life of Pi (review)and the “secretly” screened debut of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (review). However, for the most part the 2012 programming was the typical New York cinephile’s dream smorgasbord of highbrow indies and foreign films. And these seemed to mainly meet the approval of our two primary critics covering them, Daniel Walber and Caitlin Hughes (both of whom are new additions to the FSR team and did an excellent job). And all together, our 22 reviews of NYFF features averaged mainly in the range of “B” to “B+” grades. And the only thing to get less than a “C” was Brian De Palma‘s Passion, to which Caitlin gave a “D.” We weren’t only interested in new works, either. Caitlin had some fun with the anniversary screening of The Princess Bride, while Daniel had requested that one of his picks of the fest be an older film: “If I can say the new (Dolce and Gabbana funded) restoration of Satyricon that made its […]

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Police burst into a beautiful Parisian apartment to discover a semi-decomposed elderly woman’s body, arranged painstakingly on her bed, surrounded by flowers. There is duck tape around her bedroom door, preventing the smell from coming into the rest of the apartment. Cut to the woman – alive – coming back home with her husband from a concert. How did this become her heartbreaking end? In Michael Haneke’s beautifully unflinching Palme d’Or winner Amour, he circles back to this opening scene as he tells the story of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and how Anne’s debilitating illness tests the parameters of their love for each other. Amour is a great feat in filmmaking, as its near-perfect direction and performances go to emotive depths very rarely achieved onscreen. Anne and George are vibrant, retired music teachers somewhat estranged from their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who lives in England with her philandering husband. One morning, Anne prepares Georges a boiled egg for breakfast. She serves it to him, sits at the table, and then suddenly goes blank. She is completely unresponsive to her pleading husband, but as he rushes into his bedroom to start getting help, he hears the running water turn off. When he returns to the kitchen, Anne is just like her normal self and has no recollection of the episode. All seems fine until minutes later when Anne can no longer pour a cup of tea.

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Noah Baumbach

As is tradition (and a pretty fun one at that), the Telluride Film Festival has announced their lineup just one day before the festival kicks off in Telluride, CO. The 39th Telluride Film Festival will include twenty-five narrative and documentary films in its Main Program, with a total of “nearly 100 feature films, short films and revivals representing over thirty countries, along with Tribute programs, Conversations, Panels and Education Programs.” This year’s slate includes a number of anticipated films and many that are already gathering momentum on the festival circuit, including Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price, Michael Winterbottom‘s Everyday, Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt, Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson, Jacques Audiard‘s Rust & Bone, Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell, and Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires. In addition to these solid picks, Telluride will also unveil some surprise “Sneak Previews” over the weekend. Past sneaks have included 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Up in the Air. Additionally, Marion Cotillard, Roger Corman, and Mads Mikkelsen will all be honored. After the break, check out the complete listing of Telluride’s just-announced festival slate.

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If you find the holidays to not be wrenching and desperate enough, Sony Pictures Classics has just announced that they will release their recently acquired Palme d’Or-winning film, Amour, in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 19th. Filmmaker Michael Haneke just won the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival this past weekend, making him only the seventh director to win the Golden Fronds of Awesome or Whatever twice (no director has ever won it more than twice). He previously won in 2009 for The White Ribbon. The film centers on aging couple Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), who must deal with the after-effects of an attack that Anne suffers. It’s been billed as a stirring rumination on life, death, aging, love, and marriage, and was almost universally hailed at the festival (of course, there have been a handful of critics who have voiced their displeasure with it, so it will be quite interesting to see how it plays to larger audiences). This is the third film of Haneke’s that SPC has distributed, as they have also previously released both Cache and The White Ribbon. [Press Release, via ComingSoon]

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