Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Nowhere Boy, dir. by Sam Taylor-Wood

In Great Britain on November 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Nowhere Boy represents British multimedia conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s film directorial debut, and tells the story of a young man in the late ‘50s and his interest in the burgeoning rock scene of the time as well as his relationships with his mother and aunt. Of course this is no ordinary story, as the film’s main characters go by the names of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 19 year-old actor Aaron Johnson (who is actually engaged to Taylor-Wood, 42 years his senior) portrays Lennon, the “Nowhere Boy” in question, while Thomas Sangster, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Anne-Marie Duff provide support as McCartney, Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, and his mother Julia respectively.

Based on a biography of Lennon’s adolescence by his half-sister Julia Baird, the film has already garnered considerable acclaim in it’s homeland; it was nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards including Best Film, Best Actor for Johnson, and Best Supporting Actress for both Scott Thomas and Duff (the awards will be handed out December 6th). On a side note, electronica duo Goldfrapp is providing the score for the film. A must-see for every Beatles fan (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), the film opens in theaters in the UK on December 25th and will make its way stateside sometime next year.


Baaria, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

In Italy on November 10, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Italy’s latest Oscar submission is Baaria, a film by acclaimed director Giuseppe Tornatore (of Cinema Paradiso fame). It is a dramedy that examines Tornatore’s own hometown of Bagheria in Sicily by following a couple (played by Francesco Scianna and Margareth Made) from the 1920s until the present day. The film also stars Raoul Bova and Monica Bellucci (two names that should be more familiar to American audiences) and includes Tornatore’s trademark blend of wit, nostalgia, and sentimentality. In addition to being chosen as the national submission to next year’s Academy Awards, the film opened the 66th Venice Film Festival, where also won the Pasinetti Award and was nominated for the Golden Lion (the highest honor the festival bestows).

Here’s the full trailer, which actually shows a real cow being killed. It’s a split-second image, but it has apparently caused quite a stir in Italy over the unethical treatment of animals. Tornatore has made a statement saying that what was filmed was just an typical occurrence at the slaughterhouse in which they were shooting.

Home, dir. by Ursula Meier

In Switzerland on October 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Home, Switzerland’s 2010 Oscar submission, tells the interesting story of one family whose unique way of life is threatened by the opening of a previously unused freeway by their house. The film stars legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert as the family matriarch, and Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet as her husband. The two characters preside over a seemingly idyllic and happy family of five, but the introduction of the freeway brings about cracks in the family structure in strange and unique ways. Reactions from those who have seen the film at various festivals, such as those at Cannes, San Francisco, and London, have largely been positive (it’s currently at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes); critics have noted its strong performances (particularly from Huppert), originality, and thematic ambition. It has also been deemed “a deeply disconcerting provocation about the future of civilization” (Empire), “as unsettling as it is sensual” (Daily Telegraph), “a nightmare metaphor for the horrors of the modern world” (Observer), and “one of the strangest horror films of recent years” (Sky Movies). It played the art house circuit in the US back in May, but as of yet does not have a DVD release date.

Theo van Gogh (1957-2004)

In Netherlands on October 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I’m going to take a slight detour from the norm this week and discuss the work of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, rather than a single upcoming film. And to answer your question, yes he is in fact related to famed painter Vincent (or as Theo would have called him, great-great-great uncle). With that out of the way, Van Gogh gained popularity in his native country through a series of unique, and oft-controversial, actor-driven films like 06 (1994), Blind Date (1996), and Interview (2003). The latter two have both been recently remade for American audiences, with actor Stanley Tucci both helming and starring in 2009’s Blind Date and Steve Buscemi doing the same for a 2007 version of Interview.

Van Gogh began a career as a newspaper columnist in the ‘80s, gaining prominence for his controversial attacks on actors, politicians, writers and others he associated with power and “the establishment”. A fierce atheist, he also turned his attention towards critiquing modern religion. In the ‘90s he began to focus on Islam, culminating in the 2004 short film Submission which was broadcast on Dutch public television. In the film four Muslim women deliver monologues that call attention to the misogyny and violent treatment of women found in various passages in the Qur’an (these are also written in ink all over their bodies). Though many applauded the film for asking tough questions about Islam and women’s rights, it caused outrage amongst the Muslim population. Both Van Gogh and screenwriter Ayaan Hirsi Ali faced numerous death threats following the film’s airing, and on November 2, 2004 he was brutally murdered in public by Mohammed Bouyer, a member of the Dutch terrorist cell the Hofstad Network. The aftermath of this tragedy was marked by attacks on mosques and Muslim schools, and further counterattacks on Christian churches. In the end, eleven other men were arrested for the conspiracy to also assassinate Hirsi Ali.

Whether or not you agree with Van Gogh’s politics or views, his tragic death should stand as a reminder of the affront of free speech and civil liberties that is still rampant in this supposedly modern world. Such acts should never stand, and it appears that Hirsi Ali (who still faces repeated death threats) plans on going through with Submission: Part II because otherwise she “I would only be helping terrorists believe that if they use violence, they’re rewarded with what they want”*.

Un Prophète (A Prophet)

In France on September 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm

France’s official submission for the 2010 Academy Awards was recently announced, with the honor going to auteur Jacques Audiard’s sprawling prison drama Un Prophète. The film already won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes, and is coming off of a rapturous critical and audience reception at the Toronto International Film Festival. Featuring a largely non-professional cast, the film follows a young Arab man as he climbs the ranks of the prison system. Critics have deemed it “tough”, “absorbingly intricate” (Variety) and “sensationally directed and quietly compelling” (The Globe and Mail), and it’s already made over $8 million in France (not bad for a film with a 2 and a half hour plus running time). As for it’s US release, the film already has a February 12th date set and is being distributed by Sony Classics, Sony’s specialty branch which also oversaw the releases of films like Rachel Getting Married, Volver, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’ll be interesting to see how a gritty and violent, not to mention lengthy, foreign film will play with American audiences.

Max Manus

In Norway on September 22, 2009 at 5:04 pm


Continuing with the international selection at the recent Toronto Film Festival, Norway’s answer to WWII action flicks comes in the form of Max Manus. The film, co-directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, tells the true story of one of Norway’s most famous resistance fighters of World War II. It covers Manus’ life from the Winter War in the USSR to peacetime in 1945, with the bulk of the World War II and Nazi occupation of Norway in between.

Though it has yet to see a stateside release, it received glowing reviews in its native country and went on to be nominated for eleven Amanda Awards (the Norwegian Oscars), winning seven including Best Film, Best Actor for Aksel Hennie, and Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Kittelsen. The film was one of the largest productions in Norwegian history, costing NOK 55 million (roughly $9.3 million) and employing nearly four thousand extras and behind the scenes workers. It’s 2008 premiere was a major event, with King Harald V and Gunnar Sønsteby (a resistance fighter portrayed in the film) in attendance. By the end of its theatrical run it had made over $15 million at the box office, beating out such international hits as The Dark Knight, Quantum of Solace, and Wall-E (the only film to best it, incidentally, was the ABBA musical Mammia Mia!). The film will likely be Norway’s submission to the 2010 Academy Awards, and should it secure a nomination, will make it into US theaters sometime early next year.


In Sweden on September 13, 2009 at 2:38 pm

In the tradition of animated films meant for adults (pioneered by the Japanese, and furthered by the French and Americans – see the recent 9), Swedish director, and former graffiti artist, Tarik Saleh has created a unique, dystopian vision of a future Europe. The story revolves around Stockholm-native Roger, who begins to hear strange voices in his head when he nears the subway system (which has been connected to every underground in Europe). With the continent facing depleting oil reserves, Roger then unwittingly gets caught up in a major conspiracy.

The filmmakers created the distinct look of the film by photoshopping and stylizing actual photographs before animating them. The impressive voice cast includes Swedish stars like Vincent Gallo, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgaard (of Pirates fame) and Alexander Skarsgaard (star of HBO’s “True Blood”), as well as American actress/rocker Juliette Leiws. The film was recently featured at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and is set for a November 6 release in its native Sweden. Whether or not the film, which was filmed in English, will secure a stateside theatrical release is still up in the air. Figures crossed though; we can never get enough darker, more imaginative animated films, especially when nonsensical films like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (dinosaurs were long extinct by the time of the wooly mammoths) make over $850 million worldwide.

“An Education” at TIFF

In Great Britain on September 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, and directed by Danish auteur Lone Scherfig, An Education tells a distinctly British coming-of-age-tale in which a teenage schoolgirl (played by up-and-comer Carey Mulligan) begins a whirlwind romance with a man nearly twice her age (Peter Sarsgaard), and subsquently faces an identity crises as she transforms from an innocent youth to a sophisticated woman.  Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper, Sally Hawkins, and Emma Thompson round out the cast.

The film, which premiered at Sundance this year, has been the target of Oscar buzz for months. It is currently being featured in the Toronto Film Festival, largely regarded as the launching ground for awards bait (this is the place where the then-unknown Slumdog Millionaire began its march towards the Kodak Theater, after all). This is the first major film role for Mulligan (who got her start alongside Keira Knightley in 2005‘s Pride & Prejudice), and, combined with her roles in high-profile films like Public Enemies and the upcoming Brothers, could very well signal the arrival of a new star. Those who have seen the film say that she is a revelation, and many prognosticators have had her name pencilled in for Best Actress since early summer. Whether or not awards are in the film’s future, though, is ultimate irrelevant; what matters is great filmmaking, and it would appear that Scherfig, Mulligan, et al have delivered just that.

Watch the trailer and judge for yourself.