Cristian Mungiu

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 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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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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