Chasing Ice

expedition ship

When a movie as magnificent as Expedition to the End of the World comes along, it’s hard to find the right words to describe it. Awesome comes to mind, but that sounds so broad. It’s a word that has had its meaning diluted through generations of it being used to merely mean “cool.” For most people, it’s not even a good enough word by itself anymore. First it was unnecessarily given more oomph with phrases like “totally awesome,” and now it’s part of the utterly ridiculous slang expression “awesome sauce.” But the true, original definition of the word is the most fit for a documentary that delivers us to the wonder of our planet’s destruction with such amazing and daunting splendor. And in a way, it’s probably appropriate to use a word that’s lost something in its evolution. The title of the film refers to both the edge of the earth as well as its demise, and yet the journey in question is hardly one of alarm. Just as the physical end of the world is an illusion, given that it’s not flat, the temporal terminus is just a point somewhere amidst the infinity. Expedition to the End of the World follows a group of explorers sailing toward the North Pole along the Northeast coast of Greenland, a trip made possible only recently thanks to global warming, in order to study the newly exposed environment on every level. Scientists aboard the schooner Activ include a geologist, a geochemist, a marine biologist, a […]

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Best Original Song

Last year’s Best Original Song category had a dismal two (TWO!) nominations in a year that gave us such songs as the catchy “Hello Hello” from the piano man himself, Elton John (who has seen no love from the Academy since The Lion King in 1994) from Gnomeo and Juliet, a brand new (and beautifully haunting) song from The National, “Think You Can Wait,” from Win Win, and eleven new songs (any of which could have/should have been a contender) from Sigur Rós front-man Jónsi from We Bought a Zoo. Luckily this year the Academy decided on a much more respectable number of songs (five of them!) pulled from a variety of film genres including a documentary (Chasing Ice), comedy (Ted), musical (Les Misérables), action (Skyfall), and adventure (Life of Pi) performed by a range of singers, including chart topping artists and even one actress. An increased number of songs may be getting their moment in the spotlight this year, but only one will be left standing at the end of the big night. Read on as we turn up the volume on each of the nominees along with my prediction of the winner in red…

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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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If there’s anything I hate most about the Oscars it’s the way the movie awards have the power to influence filmmaking. This time of year it’s more and more difficult to tell if certain films are even meant for us, the audience, or if they should solely be shown to the Academy in exchange for little gold men. Of course, one of the purposes of baiting for Oscars is to receive nominations and especially wins, which will presumably help earn more money at the box office (or, more likely, from the cable outlet). This still excludes satisfying the audience as the primary impulse and objective of making movies. In theory, accolades should indeed motivate Hollywood to make the best pictures they could possibly make. There’s still something to be said for art being the best when not aiming for praise and prizes, but in terms of studio product, which is more craft and entertainment than art and expression, such goals can be positive inspiration. Without the Oscars we probably still would have seen a profit-aiding progression of special effects technology and artistry, but surely some production values have improved over time as a result of sound recordists and costume designers and art directors and composers and songwriters striving to be known as the best in their field.

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Chasing Ice Movie

Just in time for Thanksgiving tables where politics reluctantly come up, the Chasing Ice trailer provides some excellent visual proof for those in the world that still doubt that the world is getting warmer. Whether or not you can convince them that humans are at fault is another issue, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could at least agree that science is a better starting point than “how Uncle Melbert’s knee feels when it’s about to rain”? Sorry, Uncle Melbert, but you might want to check this out. This documentary is a life-and-camera-endangering exercise that follows nature photographer James Balog complete the arduous task of placing time-lapse equipment in some of the harshest environmental conditions on the planet. His goal? Capturing footage of melting glaciers. The resulting shots are nothing short of awe-inspiring. There is a massive raw power in these mammoths disappearing from the landscape, and director Jeff Orlowski also captures Balog’s obsessive story — one that has made a lot of festival rounds to a huge pile of acclaim. Check out the stunning trailer for yourself:

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Chasing Ice

To crassly understate it, the weather on the Eastern Seaboard has been a bit unpleasant. Hurricane Sandy was a disaster the likes of which public transit in New York City has never seen, and the crises of electricity and gas all over the region may continue well into November. Always ready to lighten the mood and lift our spirits, The Onion ran the following story: “Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going to Be a Thing That Happens from Now On.” As if responding to the challenge, a Nor’easter promptly hit on the night of November 7th. The satirical newspaper’s droll acceptance of climate change, however, isn’t yet shared by everyone. Enter Chasing Ice, the most recent in a wave of documentaries dead set on changing the national perception of the weather.

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Last night, at a special event in conjunction with the AFI FEST, the nominees for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were announced. And once again, the titles contending for the ten feature categories, all of which focus solely on nonfiction films (to make up for the Oscars’ minimal recognition), represent the year’s best in documentaries. As someone who professionally concentrates on docs elsewhere, I tend to feel kinda useless or redundant when Cinema Eye names its nominees, because now when someone asks me what’s great this year I can just point to their list of 31 features. Of course, some of these films are only up for specific honors, like those for original music score and graphic design, and may not be quite as necessary as the six up for the top award or the 10 nominated for the Audience Choice Prize (which sadly, for publicity-sake, lacks a Justin Bieber movie like last year). Also, I could name a bunch of exceptional docs that haven’t been recognized, such as This is Not a Film, The House I Live In, Under African Skies, Beware of Mr. Baker, Last Call at the Oasis, The Queen of Versailles, Girl Model (though its directors are up for Downeast) and The Invisible War. Still, I’m very excited that one of my top three nonfiction films of the year, The Imposter, is one of the most-nominated titles, while I’m even more ecstatic that the CEH could bring more attention to brilliant, lesser-known works like Only the […]

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Brace yourself, SXSW attendees and fans, we’re about to hit you with a metric ton of new information. Leading off with the big stuff! SXSW has just added a number of new films to be screened, including a fistful of Sundance hits, including Safety Not Guaranteed, Sleepwalk With Me, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Searching for Sugar Man, and Chasing Ice. That news alone should excite you, but it comes bundled up with still more, including the complete conference line-up, along with the news that all screening and panel dates and times are finally live. Meaning? If you’re a psychotic planner like me, you can get cracking on crafting your schedule for maximum fun and consumption. I’m frankly afraid to look at the schedule just yet, because it will send me spiraling into a fit of planning that I might not emerge from for many hours. But you? You can start planning now. After the break, check out the full line-up for all conference panels, along with descriptions on all of today’s just-announced film titles.

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