Still from Ajami; Kino International

Throughout the month of April, Film School Rejects will be dedicating the bulk of our Sunday programming to a series we call “Movie Geek Self Improvement.” We’ve tasked our writers with finding ways to improve your life — from losing weight to restoring old VHS tape jackets — we want to help you get the most out of your pop culture obsessed existence. Want to sit around watching movies will simultaneously learning about cultures other than your own? Sorted by region – here’s a list of engaging films that you may not have seen. You can watch to gain a bit of insight about places from all over the world, while your butt gets sore from sitting on your couch at home.


discs hansel gretel get baked

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Hansel & Gretel Get Baked Gretel (Molly Quinn) and her boyfriend have a case of the munchies and decide to bake some treats, but knowing they’ll have to wait for the goodies to be done they decide he should head out for more weed. He decides to seek out the city’s newest strain, “Black Forest,” and goes straight to the source… a little old lady (Lara Flynn Boyle) with a green thumb and witchy tendencies. When he disappears it’s up to Gretel and her brother Hansel to get to the bottom of this nasty little fairy tale. Low expectations can never really hurt a movie (unless they cause you not to see it in the first place), but they still can’t be solely credited with my enjoyment of this horror comedy. Some of the jokes are predictably bad (cops at a donut shop!) but several more land successfully and earn real laughs. Even better, there’s actually some truly fun gore effects to be found here too. Bottom line, this isn’t destined to become your new favorite, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining Hansel & Gretel movie this year. Take that, Hawkeye. [Blu-ray extras: None]


oscar amour

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…


The Skin I Live In

The Academy Awards are not always the best place to look for fresh faces, and this year is no different. The list is full of perennial nominees, to the point of occasional absurdity. The Best Supporting Actor race is the most obvious example, all five actors having won before. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Guys like John Williams and Steven Spielberg, with five and three Oscars respectively, seem like obligatory nominations. There are others who still haven’t won, but find themselves nominated over and over again anyway, like Thomas Newman and Roger Deakins. Some categories are easier to break into than others, but on the whole, the Academy loves recognizing their favorites. This makes it all the more exciting when the elusive first nomination does happen. Whatever you think about the provenance of her performance, it’s going to be neat to see Quvenzhané Wallis on the red carpet. However, I think it’s even more thrilling when long-neglected talent is recognized at last. Gary Oldman’s nod for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last year was by far my favorite, if only because I thought it would never happen. After someone has gone so long without getting the attention, it seems almost impossible. In that spirit, here are my five favorite first-time nominations of the 85th Academy Awards, with a look back at some of the work that somehow got overlooked in the past.



Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during the 2012 NYFF, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. The revolution will not only be televised, it will have commercials. At least that’s how it happens in No, Pablo Larraín’s new chronicle of the last days of Augusto Pinochet’s rule in Chile. It is the story of a military dictatorship that fell to an ad campaign, a cheerful one at that. This causes contradictions. On the one hand, the film emphasizes the joy of mass political action. Liberation is exciting, and people get excited about it when they are shown a brighter future. However, advertising is also the great commercial and consumerist art form, here being used as a tool by socialist and other left-wing opponents of the regime. On paper this seems extremely counter-intuitive, and No doesn’t lose sight of these tensions. To turn this whirlwind of politics and confusion into a human story, Larraín builds his film around a single young man caught at the very center of the drama. René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) is an up-and-comer in the world of advertising, making a name for himself in a particularly important firm. Yet he suddenly finds himself faced with a life-changing decision. It is 1988, and due to international pressure on the Pinochet regime Chile is going to have a national plebiscite regarding the dictatorship. It would be the first free election in almost two decades. It was a simple proposition: “Yes” to keep […]


Gael Garcia Bernal No

Augusto Pinochet was not a good guy. He rose to power in Chile through a military coup, and he’d go on to amass nearly 300 criminal charges throughout his brutally corrupt reign. Through increasing internal and international pressure, he legalized political parties and called for a public vote in 1987 on whether he would stay in power for another 10 years. If you voted YES, you wanted him to remain president. If you voted NO, you wanted him out. In No, Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a marketing expert who spearheads the effort to oust Pinochet through a series of political campaigns to encourage voters to have the courage to kick him out. The trailer (via Yahoo!) shows a slick production trying to convert a powerfully complex political reality into a positive message about what life might be like with democracy.



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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published: 02.01.2015
published: 01.31.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015

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