Beyond the Hills

fountain08

After taking a weekend off, the Reject Recap returns with another look at the best movie news and features of the past week. As usual, we’ve got a mix of our own content and favorite stories from around the web. If you wrote or know of something posted that’s potentially deserving of being showcased here, please email me. Even if it’s not chosen for the top ten, if I like it I’ll give it a mention of some kind. While this Saturday morning sees yet another slot filled by Star Wars and obviously devotes another to SXSW before the fest has hardly even begun, there are some other good picks for both the movie geeks (features involving The Fountain and Big Trouble in Little China, for example) and the more academically minded cinephiles (a look at Romanian cinema and a few considerations of the best music docs ever made). Also, there’s two funny mash-up videos for your enjoyment. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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review beyond the hills

Editor’s note: Daniel Walber’s review originally ran during NYFF 2012, but we’re re-running it as the film’s limited theatrical release begins today. American cinema has had a recent fascination with cults, from last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene through the recently released Scientology-inspired epic, The Master. These films primarily focus on charismatic leaders and their relationship with a single victim, regardless of whether that leader is a remote farm-dwelling mystic like John Hawkes in Martha Marcy or Philip Seymour Hoffman’s erudite and intellectual riff on L. Ron Hubbard. Perhaps this is because the United States has only had smaller-scale social control, individual religious sects rather than any national experiment with totalitarianism. It allows us to blame misguided obedience on a single man, however terrifying he may be. European films cut from the same cloth, on the other hand, are working with very different material. The legacies of 20th century Fascism and Communism have driven great filmmakers for decades, most recently in the former Soviet Bloc. The last decade’s renaissance of Romanian cinema has spent much of its thematic energy dealing with Nicolae Cauşescu’s dictatorship, but none until now have looked at it specifically in the terms of cult-like social control. Cristian Mungiu goes there with Beyond the Hills, a triumph of harrowing beauty that stands with the best films of the Romanian New Wave.

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

The Oscar nominations will be announced next Thursday, January 10th. Who’s excited? Perhaps more tellingly, who’s geared up enough to wake up early to watch the press conference live? It’s at 5:30AM PT! I’m planning on it, but I’ll probably just add another year to my tradition of sleeping through my alarm and missing all of the fun. That’s a shame, because surprises are always best in the moment. And there are always surprises. The trick is trying to predict them. Last year people were somewhat taken aback by Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close grabbing a Best Picture nomination, intrigued when Demián Bachir pulled off the nod for Best Actor, and impressed when little distributor GKIDS managed to get both A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita in for Best Animated Feature. There are also always a few omissions that upset the common wisdom. Remember when Dreamgirls missed a nomination for Picture, knocked out by Letters from Iwo Jima? The twists and turns make the season fun. You wouldn’t want to wake up that early only to have all your bland suppositions simply confirmed by the Academy. So let’s predict the unpredictable! Here are five potential surprises to look for next Thursday morning. Don’t hold it against me if I’m wrong, but if I’m right you should totally tell all your friends.

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

The Academy is voting! Nomination polls opened on December 17th and close on January 3rd. The two and a half week period might seem like a long time, but it’s going to go by in the blink of an eye, especially with Christmas and the New Year right in the middle. As voters pick through their piles of screeners and decide what to watch, I certainly hope that they dig deep enough to find some of the year’s best unheralded work. In fact, I’m going to suggest a few things. At this point much of the “don’t miss this movie!” conversation has been around performances, a valid pursuit if there ever was one. However, there’s also plenty of under-discussed work in “below the line” categories. Here’s a wish list, five extremely unlikely but entirely deserving nominations that would make me a very happy blogger.

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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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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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After literally days of rampant speculation and fanciful rumor-spreading (on my part), this year’s official line-up for the Cannes 2012 Film Festival has officially been unveiled by officials in the South of France. Officially. Unsurprisingly, and as predicted, my own 13 film wishlist was largely completely wrong – but I did predict a massive four (including the absence, thankfully, of Terrence Malick), and in my defense, Michael Haneke’s Love was the 14th film on my list until I decided to oust it for timing reasons. Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Tom Hardy will battle each other as Killing Them Softly (the awfully renamed adaptation of Cogan’s Trade), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and the other needlessly renamed flick, Lawless (why not just keep it as The Wettest County?) compete for the Palme d’Or.

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