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My Two Cents on the Oscars

by Sydney Levine
January 26, 2012 10:30 AM
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Chico & Rita by Fernando Trueba
Chico & Rita by Fernando Trueba

Admitting to limited interest in the Academy Awards, per se, I am, however, very interested in Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary and Best Animated Feature this year because I LOVE Chico & Rita (ISA:  HanWay) by Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque and Calle 54) and can't wait to see A Cat in Paris (ISA: Films Distribution) by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Ferlicioli.  Both of these are being distributed by GKids a multi-platform distributor of prestige entertainment for children and teens, specializing in titles that cross over between art house and youth audiences and also runs N.Y. Children's International Film Festival, though Chico & Rita is not a kid or teen film at all!  It is also distributing Studio Ghibli's library which included Spirited Away and Princess Monoke and last year it released The Secret of Kells (with New Video handling its ancillary markets).  While I have yet to see A Cat in Paris, I have seen Chico & Rita twice, once at Toronto's TIFF and again at LALIFF (Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival).  And I was sorry to miss seeing it a third time in Havana itself this December as seeing it with a Cuban audience would be an exhilarating experience.  It is a beautiful romance between a pianist and a singer, taking place in Havana, Manhattan and Las Vegas in the late 40s and 50s.   The film has an original soundtrack by Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer Bebo Valdés and features music by Thelonious MonkCole PorterDizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole.

A Separation by Asghar Farhadi
A Separation by Asghar Farhadi

I have written about Iran's Separation (U.S. SPC, ISA: Memento) during last year's Berlinale and just saw Canada's Monsieur Lazhar (U.S. Music Box, ISA: Films Distribution).  My partner Peter Belsito has written about Bullhead.  I must see Footnote (U.S. SPC, ISA: Westend) and I have seen In Darkness (U.S. SPC, ISA: Beta).  It's great that Sony Pictures Classics has 4 films nominated, 3 out of 5 for Best Foreign Language and 1 for Best Screenplay. Separation's nomination for Best Screenplay is a wonderful bonus surprise.

I am throwing my hat in the ring for A Separation and Monsieur Lazhar.  A Separation is so adult and at the same time, so accessible.  During a couple's separation and divorce proceedings, one sees that the lies all adults tell, even with the best of intentions, hold a terrible power over those inheritors (the children) of our lives, on a personal level as well as on a polticial and national level.
Monsieur Lazhar's story, involving children and discussing that taboo subject, death, is the sort of film I think the Academy would favor because it is about children.  Its total lack of kitsch or sentimentalism, its gentle understated tone won me over totally when I saw it at the Art House Convergence last week.  The Montreal based production company Micro_Scope, founded by Luc Dery, has also produced last year's Oscar nominee Incendies and is now working on Inch'Allah by director Anais Barbeau-Lavalette about three women, a Quebecoise, a Palestinian and an Israeli. We hope to see it in Cannes this year.  Congratulations go to the Canadians.  This year they have Oscar nominations for Monsieur Lazhar, Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor in Beginners (U.S. and ISA: Focus Features), Hugo for Best Score, In Darkness which is a Canadian co-production with Poland, having received initial development money from Telefilm Canada when it was proposed to be in English, and 2 animated shorts by the National Film Board: Sunday (Dimanche) from Quebec and The Wild One.  What is noticeably missing is any nomination at all for David Cronenberg's masterpiece A Dangerous Method.
All in all, the coming 2011 Academy Awards Show at 4:00 pm EST/ 7:00 pm PST on ABC TV February 26, 2012 will be interesting!  I hope I will be invited to the party of the Winner of the Best Foreign Language Feature or Best Animated Feature (Films Distribution has a film in each category) to celebrate!

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  • Dave Jesteadt | January 29, 2012 6:22 PMReply

    GKIDS is actually dedicated to releasing the highest quality independent and foreign animated features, not necessarily for families, although a lot of the films happen to skew that way simply because the films are made for family audiences in their home countries, and just happen to be very artfully done.

    We knew when we saw Chico at Toronto that we had to have it, and actually created a new sub-label called LumaFilms just for the release of C&R and future "adult-oriented" animated films.

  • Gaspar Marino | January 26, 2012 7:01 PMReply

    I too feel that A Separation was one of the best foreign films of the year. I also liked Circumstance. I will see Chico and Rita on your recommendation. It opens at the Angelika theatre in NYC on Feb. 10th. One film I must comment on as receiving a nomination for Best Picture is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I don't know if it was just me (although I, don't really think so), but I thought it was one of the worst films I have seen in maybe the last 5 years. The little boy's performance was so annoying and over the top that it completely robbed the film of any sympathy. Couldn't they have found a better child actor. Also, the situations were so absurd, that most of the audience laughed through three-quarters of the film, which I don't think was the intention. I don't know who Scott Rudin paid to get that film nominated?

  • Joe Hughey | January 26, 2012 2:46 PMReply

    I agree, A Dangerous Method should have received some nominations. Cronenberg is much better a director than the supremely overrated Mallick, but the Academy gives him way too much hate, and seems blindly loyal to Mallick.

    It's a funny world we live in.

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