Tag Archives: Sarah Polley

Oscar Countdown: Snubs Galore

The Oscar nominations always cause a stir, what with the Academy’s glaring myopia when it comes to certain films. This year, the snubs were fewer and less harsh than in years past (like that year they totally ignored three of the best films of the year in Drive, Take Shelter and Young Adult, and failed to nominate the year’s best lead actress performances). We may never get over 2011.

Still, as always, there are some very curious omissions. Here we run down our 5 biggest gripes.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis

The magnificent Coen brothers’ immersive character study set in the unforgiving winter of the Greenwich Village folk scene garnered no love for its outstanding lead performance or its pristine screenplay or its rich and textured direction or even its music! That’s a lot of snubs for one film. It would certainly have been tough to find room for the wondrous Oscar Isaac in a leading actor field more crowded than most, and though the Coens are perpetual competitors for best director (by Oscar’s standards or anyone else’s), who would we bump this year? Scorsese? That’s a hard choice.

When it comes to original screenplay, we may have dumped Dallas Buyers Club in favor of Llewyn. There’s no question that we would have given it the best picture nod over Philomena.

 

2. Stories We Tell

The Academy had their heads up their asses with this one. In fact, there are a number of documentaries better suited to the award than this lineup suggests, but Sarah Polley’s deceptively complicated, brave and clever film cries out for recognition. Not only among the best documentaries of the year but one of the very best films overall, we would certainly have knocked Dirty Wars from the list in favor of Polley’s film. Truth be told, the only film in the category more deserving is The Act of Killing, so we’d have been fine with kicking any of the others to the curb to make room.

 

3. Her

The most imaginative and lovely film of 2013 went without acknowledgment in acting and directing, which is sinful. Our first order of business would be to get Scarlett Johansson a best actress nomination, even though the studio pushed her for supporting. Let’s be honest, regardless of the fact that she’s never onscreen, she plays one of two lovers in a love story. She’s the lead. And in a brilliant voice-only effort, she easily deserves Sandra Bullock’s spot. (In fact, we’d pick Johansson over Bullock, Streep or even Dench this year.)

Joaquin Phoenix should have edged out Leo (though we loved Leo’s work, it’s just a very tight race this year!). Director is as tight as actor, and while Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese are 1) geniuses and 2) nominated for outstanding work this year, we’d have given one of their places to Spike Jonze for crafting a beautiful love story set in an unerringly crafted near-future, and doing so without a hint of cynicism or derivation.

 

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color

Apparently France couldn’t get off its cheese eating ass to get the film released in time for Oscar consideration, which is an absolute tragedy. The film should, by all accounts, boast two nominations, one for Best Foreign Language Film and another for Best Actress. The fact that Adele Exarchopoulos’s career-defining turn in this romantic drama will go unacknowledged is a crime.

 

5. And the Rest

We’d rather see Julie Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said) for Best Actress than Meryl Streep. We know that sounds like heresy, but her performance in August: Osage County is so hyperbolic that it’s more exaggeration than acting. True, the weak direction of A: OC is most likely to blame, but the end result just doesn’t measure up.

We would also have given either Daniel Bruhl (Rush) or James Gandolfini (Enough Said) the nod over Jonah Hill for Best Supporting Actor.

 

For more on our Oscar picks, listen to George’s stint on the Sunny 95 (WSNY Columbus, OH) morning show.

 

Two Outstanding New Releases for Your Queue

We can’t bring ourselves to pair up a new release with a similarly wonderful backlist title because two awesome films are released to DVD today: The Iceman and Stories We Tell. You’ll  just have to watch two new ones.

The Iceman showcases the range of genius character actor Michael Shannon. Director Ariel Vromen makes the most of Shannon’s physical presence as well as his ability to oscillate between steely calm and touching vulnerability. It’s a tour de force from one of this generation’s most impressive performers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHZ6dxR2EiQ

Meanwhile, Sarah Polley continues to impress with her skills behind the camera with Stories We Tell. The Canadian writer/director/actor becomes her own documentarian, sharing family secrets in a poignant, fascinating and impeccably crafted look at how all families shape and reshape their own histories.

The Story of Her Life (and Ours)

 

by George Wolf

 

In Stories We Tell, director Sarah Polley lets the secrets in her own family history speak to all families, eloquently questioning truths in which we often take comfort.

She already had an extensive list of acting credits when 2006’s Away From Her established Polley’s additional skills as a writer and director. Her instincts are just as true in the documentary genre, perhaps more so, as a story that has intensely private beginnings becomes universal, entertaining and genuinely moving.

Normally, we include a film’s trailer when posting a review, but not in this case. Avoid it if you can, as knowing absolutely nothing about Polley’s family dynamics before seeing Stories We Tell adds a wonderful element of discovery.

In much the same manner Bart Layton structured his incredible documentary The Imposter last year, Polley moves the story along with the best possible pace, releasing new bits of information at the exact moment they will have the most impact. This holds true even halfway through the end credits, when she drops a bombshell that gives the entire saga a new perspective.

Though some of the family members involved are not shy about wanting the film anchored from their perspective, Polley is having none of it. Her film, personal as it may be, is crafted so well that a reexamination of your own family is almost inevitable. And yet, it unfolds in such an engrossing fashion, you may forget its not an adaptation of the latest best selling novel.

It is a testament to Polley’s own storytelling skill that she can turn the focus inward, and still prompt you to look at your own world in a different way.

Stories We Tell is, so far, the best film of the year.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Countdown: Best films..so far..in 2013

The year’s half over. What were the  best films so far? Well, #1 opens this week at the Gateway. Have a look!

 

5. Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez remakes Sam Raimi’s beloved indie splatter fest with the right amount of respect (to the original), humor, and more than enough gore. This infectious bloodletting surprises even the most ardent fan of the original with ingenious twists, solid performances, and a script doctored brilliantly by Oscar winner Diablo  Cody.

 

4. This Is The End

Seth Rogan’s posse gathers for an end of the world party to lampoon their own images and spin a hilarious yarn about celebrity, the rapture, and Michael Cera’s cocaine habit. Jonah Hill’s demon possession is inspired comedy, but the film’s a clever, weirdly good-natured laugh riot from start to finish.

 3. Much Ado about Nothing

Thank God for nerds. Joss Whedon turns his considerable skill to breathing new life to Shakespeare, with the second big party on the list. Mining the Bard’s comedy for actual laughs, Whedon stacks his cast with hyper-talented buddies, and a scene-stealing Nathan Fillian alone is worth the price of admission.

 

2. Mud

Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up his flawless (and criminally underseen Take Shelter) with another exquisite film. This coming of age tale about a boy, a disappearing way of life, and a fugitive named Mud charms and surprises.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv30J05U2nI

 

1. Stories We Tell

A fascinating, thoroughly entertaining documentary from Sarah Polley.  While laying bare the secrets in her own family history, Polley expertly speaks to all families, and the questionable truths in which we often take comfort.

 

Runners up: Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, World War Z, To the Wonder, The Bling Ring, How to Make Money Selling Drugs  and The Iceman. Happy viewing!