Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

14 February 2015

Oscar Nominees 2015: Part 10 of 12

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9.
Part 10 of 12:

Leviathan (Левиафан)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Picture: Russia (12, The Thief, Prisoner of the Mountains, Burnt by the Sun, Close to Eden)
Cast: Elena Lyadova, Aleskey Srebryakov, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Roman Madyanov, Ann Ukolova, Sergey Pokhadaev, Aleksey Rozin

I cannot wait to see this movie. But my local art house theatre (which is, ahem, an hour away) has had it listed on the website as "Coming Soon" since the new year. For some reason, it is always on its way and refuses to arrive. In any case, Dartmouth will screen it on March 5th and I plan to be there. I know other people are predicting Argentina's Wild Tales to win this award, but I am actually expecting Leviathan to win. This is a very, very important movie in Russian cinema – there has been talk of it being banned – and Russian politics are incendiary right now. Watch the trailer. It looks astounding.
Will Win: Foreign Language Picture
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Not Ranked


Relatos Salvajes (Wild Tales)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Picture: Argentina (The Secret in Their Eyes, The Son of the Bride, Tango, The Official Story, Camila, The Truce) 
Director: Damián Szifrón
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Leonardo Sbaraglia

When this played at Telluride I was forced to miss it (because my parents were visiting – should've made them come with me), so not seeing this before the Oscars is a bitter pill that I will have to swallow. This is, by all accounts, also a deliciously bitter film about revenge. It stars almost all of the big Argentinian movie stars (including Ricardo Darín, who has been in the last two of Argentina's nominees. Everyone says this is the favorite, and you should probably believe them. This is supposed to be quite fun, and its structure (six short segments) will make watching quite easy.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Foreign Language Film
My Rating: Not Ranked


Mandariinid (Tangerines)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Estonia
Director: Zaza Urushadze
Cast: Lembit Ulfsak, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nüganen, Mikheil Meskhi, Raivo Trass

This is Estonia's first nomination in this category! Tangerines is a Georgian–Estonian co-production by Georgian director Urushadze and it is lovely. An old man is living in a deserted area of Georgia/Chechnya with only one or two neighbors. The area is abandoned because of the soldiers roaming the area. The film is about the war in Georgia in 1990, and it is an economic, quiet film about the war's effects on the young men who are forced to fight in it and the situations that demand that they kill one another. Tangerines is beautifully acted with remarkably strained performances and by the end of this short movie (only 87 minutes) I found myself deeply moved. This is great stuff.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Released in 2015


Timbuktu
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Mauritania
Cast: Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino, Fatoumata Diawara, Abel Jafri, Toulou Kiki, Layla Walet Mohamed, Mehdi A.G. Mohamed, Hichem Yacoubi, Kettly Noël, Adel Mahmoud Cherif

Another first-time nominee, this was also Mauritania's first submission to the category. Very exciting. This is (yet another) one that I haven't seen, and it won't be winning the Oscar, so I will just comment here on a theory I have begun to develop about this category. You probably know that the governments of  individual countries each submit a single film to the Academy, so that the eventual nominees are the nations themselves and not the directors or producers. This year there were a record 83 submissions – i.e. 83 films that are likely better than The Judge – and so five nominees is way too few to really honor the awesomeness of non-USAmerican films. To make it worse, every year the Academy leaves really good films off the final list of five. This year, most egregiously, the Academy did not nominate Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure, Zeresenay Berhane Mehari's Difret, and Stefan Haupt's The Circle. But this will have to be the case every year, because, as I said, 83 films, 5 slots. To put that in perspective, let me just note that 20 films were submitted for Animated Feature's 5 slots. But I've started to feel a little more philosophical about the ludicrousness of this category, and about the Academy's strange taste when it comes to films in foreign languages. I am planning on seeing all of the films by filmmakers I know and love – the Dardennes, Xavier Dolan, David Trueba, Nuri Bilge Ceylan – so if they don't get nominated, what happens is that I end up seeing the films I planned on seeing and then also seeing the nominated films, like Timbuktu and Tangerines. This is pretty much a win-win for me, as I see it.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: Released in 2015