Benh Zeitlin

Best Director

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. The Best Director category at this year’s Academy Awards, regardless of how it turns out, has been tainted by an incredible snub. No, I’m not referring to Kathryn Bigelow’s helming of the controversial Zero Dark Thirty or even Rupert Sanders’ double tap of Snow White and the Huntsman and Kristen Stewart. I’m talking about Ben Mothereffing Affleck. His third film as director, Argo, is nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Script, Best Editing and more, but the man himself did not make the cut. It’s anybody’s guess why, and while it obviously made Benh Zeitlin’s day, the rest of us are left wondering how exactly it happened. But don’t feel too bad for Affleck… not only will his movie take home the Oscar for Best Picture on February 24th but he and the film have been cleaning up elsewhere left and right. But that’s enough about Ben Affleck. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Director along with my predicted winner in red…

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postmodem-borscht

Halfway through the 2012 Borscht Film Festival, a documentary screened titled Rising Tide: A Story of Miami Artists. In the film, which offers a basic guide to the growing art scene in the city, local paper sculptor Jen Stark acknowledges the way the digital world allows contemporary artists to flourish outside of major art centers. “Ever since the Internet came out,” she says, “ I never thought I had to be in New York or wherever.” It was a resonating quote to hear in the middle of an event so devoted to both regional communities and how they can come together as a broader, networked collective of filmmaking scenes. The central occasion for Borscht, which was held last weekend, is a screening of shorts either made by local filmmakers or commissioned by the Borscht Corporation and at least shot in Florida. Many of the films involve an overlapping of talent, and by the end you’ve seen 20 works that have given you a good sense of what’s happening with the underground “Miami New Wave.”

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Picture-11

Many of us wish we could go back and see certain films again for the first time. Or, maybe we’d like to be hypnotized and made to see a favorite film as if we’d never seen it before. Yesterday, actress/filmmaker Amy Seimetz tried an experiment at Miami’s Borscht Film Festival where she was able to watch her new, Gotham Award-nominated feature Sun Don’t Shine from the perspective of her audience, specifically those of us seeing it for the first time. She cried the whole way through, apparently, and her primary reaction was that, as critics have stated, the beginning is pretty slow. Afterwards, she was unable to answer certain questions from the crowd due to her hypnosis interfering with the fact that she actually wrote and directed the movie. But it also allowed her to see how interviews and Q&As are such bullshit. While Seimetz got to experience her own film anew, I at least got to experience a film festival screening unlike any I’ve ever known. Sure, there was a gimmicky aspect to it, and I didn’t particularly enjoy Sun Don’t Shine on its own, but the whole package was fresh and fun and weird, which is on par with the very intimate and very strange Borscht experience overall — so far anyway. I’m here in Miami through the weekend, invited down by the festival, which is why FSR’s weekend content will be a tad light this week. I wanted to get one quick post on what’s going on, […]

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Last year, I kicked off the FSR Cannes Awards by taking the opportunity to give three awards to The Artist (three of the Oscars it won actually, if you’re interested in just how much of a boss I am), and though there isn’t quite the same standout type of film at this year’s festival, there were some notable highlights. The rain was not one of them. This year, I saw 21 of the hundreds of films available to see, so these awards obviously only take in those that I deemed worthy of my attention (or which were possible to see given the intense mathematical equations required to see everything and write reviews of them all in timely enough fashion that all of the key information doesn’t bugger off out of your head). Here are my own highlights of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival:

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Cannes’ secondary competition – Un Certain Regard – offers attendees the opportunity to see innovative or intriguing projects, deemed of significance by the programme schedulers, and if there is any film in the selection which fits the bill perfectly, it is Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild. As Kevin Kelly stated in his own review of the film, it changes the way you see movies, and Zeitlin’s first feature arrived at the festival buoyed by similarly positive reviews at Sundance. The film takes place in the Bathtub, a Southern American area outside of a government enforced levee where a community of resistant, and spirited residents live in shacks in the ominous shadow cast by global warming. Our hero is Hush Puppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), an extraordinary six year old girl who lives next door to her father Wink (Dwight Henry), living day to day on the bayou, among a colourful cascade of  carnival characters, but haunted both by the ghost of her absent mother and the threat of impending ecological doom. The narrative is driven by two flashpoint events: first Wink disappears, to return days later in a hospital gown and then a raging storm floods the Bathtub, destroying the communities homes and leaving only a small group of survivors to rebuild.

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With the Tribeca Film Festival in full swing, it’s time that Los Angeles’ own Los Angeles Film Festival pipe in with still more of its lineup, all the better to get left-coasters pumped for their own festival. Earlier this month, LAFF announced that Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love will open the festival, and that announcement is now followed by the release of the first of three of the festival’s Gala titles. Those Galas will include Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, the World Premiere of Lorene Scafaria‘s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Ava DuVernay‘s Middle of Nowhere. Beasts was considered the break-out hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, so its appearance at another large festival is not a surprise, but it sure is a pleasant announcement for Los Angeles (the film was recently picked to play in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes). The film also made it on to our Most Anticipated Movies of the Summer list, as it will open on June 29. You can check out Kevin’s review of the film from Sundance, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season. We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, […]

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There is no question that Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild was the darling of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Before Team Rejects even hit the ground in Park City, the word was out on the film – this was the film to see this year, an absolute can’t-miss. Our own Kevin Kelly crowned it a Sundance stand-out and “utterly amazing” in his review (read it HERE). The film capitalized on all that good buzz with sold out screenings, the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize from the festival, and a swift pick-up from Fox Searchlight. But just when would the studio release this complicated and potentially hard to market independent film? Turns out, soon – very soon. Box Office Mojo reports that the film will have a limited release on June 29 of this year, a date that will pit it next to Take This Waltz, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Magic Mike. So, pretty perfect dating on that one. The film follows young Hushpuppy (the staggeringly talented young Quvenzhané Wallis) and her life in “the Bathtub,” an fictionalized outsider community on the edges of New Orleans. Beyond that, it’s a bit hard to explain – it’s a consuming and very creative film that’s really just kind of magical. Though I didn’t fall as head over heels in love with the film at Sundance as just about everyone else did, I still think it’s a bold and gorgeous production, and I am eager to see how Searchlight markets it and how audiences […]

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One of the reasons that I love going to the Sundance Film Festival is that amidst the sea of angst-ridden romances, dramas that explore feelings that have long-since been forgotten about, and documentaries, you’ll sometimes find a gem that will change the way you see movies. Beasts of the Southern Wild was that film for me this year. At face value, it’s a difficult film to fully explain. A society that lives off the grid from the mainland of a country ignores the warnings that their lives are in danger should the nearby levee break. They live in ignorant bliss, reveling in their lives and calling their home “The Bathtub” in a light-hearted mocking of the fact that a wall of water could come crashing down and destroy them all.

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