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

16 February 2017

Oscar Noms 2017: 10 of 13

Part 1 - La La Land, Moonlight, Arrival
Part 2 - Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion
Part 3 - Fences, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Jackie
Part 4 - Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Passengers, Rogue One
Part 5 - Deepwater Horizon, Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, A Man Called Ove
Part 6 - Captain Fantastic, Elle, Loving, Nocturnal Animals
Part 7 - The Lobster, 20th Century Women, Silence, Hail, Caesar!
Part 8 - Live-action Short Films
Part 9 - Animated Short Films

Part 10:
Toni Erdmann
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Germany (The White Ribbon, The Baader Meinhof Complex, The Lives of Others, Sophie Scholl: the Final Days, Downfall, Nowhere in Africa, Beyond Silence, Schtonk!, The Nasty Girl)
Director: Maren Ade
Cast: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Thomas Loibl, Michael Wittenborn, Trystan Pütter, Lucy Russell, Ingrid Bisu, Hadewych Minis, Victoria Cocias

This is going to win the Foreign Language Oscar, and it should. The trailer for Toni Erdmann is a little confusing, and I have to admit that I wasn't really sure what I was getting into when I arrived to see it. The trailer has quotations that say things like it is "pure cinema" and is going to"save the movies" and things like that. But Toni Erdmann is a comedy. And – much more importantly – it is very, very funny. My companion and I laughed out loud many times throughout the movie. The plot is this: a hard-working career-driven woman living in Bucharest is visited by her father. She is trying to focus on her job; he decides she needs to loosen up and so he starts to disrupt her life in various ways. The chief technique for disruption is the invention of a persona – Toni Erdmann – that he introduces to her friends and colleagues as a consultant and coach. Of course people start inviting him to things. This is a hilarious comedy, but it is also about life–work balance, the soullessness of capitalism, and it is also very much about how capital functions in EU countries like Romania. And Toni Erdmann balances its political critique very nicely with its sympathy for its central, soulless characters. An English-language remake has already been announced, with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig in the lead roles. There's no way it will be as good as the original. Go see this one. (Oh one last thing: the image above is from an extended sequence in which the main character sings Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" to a living room full of complete strangers. As my friend Walter Kmiec pointed out years ago, there is no song that better represents the explosion of global capitalism: You learned that the greatest love of all was learning to love yourself? Yes. Of course you did.)
Will Win: Foreign Language Film
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #14 out of 94

The Salesman (فروشنده)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Iran (A Separation, Children of Heaven)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Farid Sajadhosseini, Babak Karimi, Mehdi Koushki, Emad Emami, Mina Sadati, Maral Bani Adam, Mojtaba Pirzadeh, Sam Valipour, Sahra Asadollahi, Ehteram Boroumand, Shirin Aghakashi

This is Farhadi's second nomination in this category and his third nomination overall. His most recent two films (The Past and A Separation) are absolutely brilliant, so I am glad he has appeared here again. You might also know that Farhadi has said he will not be attending the Oscars this year because of the travel ban that the Trump administration attempted to put in place keeping visitors with green cards from certain countries out of the United States. But The Salesman is in theatres right now, so now would be a great time for you to go out and see this great movie. The Salesman is called this because its central characters, played beautifully by Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti, are playing Willy and Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's mid-century masterpiece A Death of a Salesman in Iran. An early scene in the film finds us at a rehearsal of the play, where we see the cast giggling at the fact that a character who is supposed to be naked wears a raincoat completely covering her body – this is a film that will be about Iranian social mores, propriety, and privacy. The structure of The Salesman is like Farhadi's other films. They unravel: an event that might seem easily remedied leads to decision after decision that complicates the lives of the central characters, until by the end – in addition to the viewer's loyalties changing a couple of times – the problems seem completely impossible to be solved. The Salesman is not as heart-wrenching or brilliant as Farhadi's other films, but it's very good all the same. This is an excellent movie.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Foreign Language Film
My Rating: #31 out of 94

Under Sandet (Land of Mine)
1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Denmark (A War, The Hunt, A Royal Affair, In a Better World, After the Wedding, Waltzing Regitze, Pelle the Conqueror, Babette's Feast, Harry and the Butler, Boy of Two Worlds, Qivitoq)
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Cast: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Laura Bro, Oskar Bökelmann, Leon Seidel, Karl Alexander Seidel

Let me just start by saying that I think this is the only movie from 2016 in which I ugly-cried. (I've yet to see Suicide Squad, so who knows.) Something just hit me near the middle of Land of Mine, and I found myself uncontrollably sobbing. The plot of the film is that after WWII German prisoners of war are sent to a beach in Denmark to dig up and disarm landmines planted there by the German army. The prisoners are the responsibility of a Danish captain who violently hates Germans, but when the soldiers arrive we find that they are boys, some of whom are very young. It is these children who must dig up and count thousands of landmines. The film's main character is the Danish captain, but the film spends a great deal of time with the boys, and we come to love them. In many ways this is a kind of updated version of Die Brücke, and I found it just as emotionally devastating as Die Brücke. I have been hot and cold on the films Denmark has been sending to the Academy – I really hated last year's A War, which was basically an elaborate apology for Danish soldier killing civilians in Afghanistan – but I really liked this movie.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #27 out of 94

1 Nomination
  • Foreign Language Film: Australia
Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Cast: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Lingai Kowia, Albi Nagia, Charlie Kahla, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Mikum Tainakou, Kapan Cook

This film is unique for a couple of reasons. First off, it is Australia's first nomination in this category. It is a film made by two Australian directors on a tiny island called Tanna (thus the film's title) in Vanuatu about a tribe called the Yakel. The film is about subject matter that happened thirty years ago on this island, and is performed by actors from the tribe itself. It is a beautiful film that has an active volcano as its centerpiece, and Butler and Dean shoot this volcano lovingly and sensuously. In fact, the film is this most of all – a kind of sensual feast, examining the love between two young people while also examining the phenomena around them: the jungle, their families, the fruit, the fish, the food, and that gorgeous volcano. This movie was released in the U.S. last year and is available for rental on Amazon. It almost never happens, but this year all five foreign language nominees also had 2016 release dates in the U.S. This year, we have four very good movies among the nominees. I have to say, I think the Academy is honestly doing a lot better with this category.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A