Currently browsing the "Academy Award winner" tag.

Still Alice

The reason to see Still Alice, and you really should, is Julianne Moore. She just won an Academy Award for her beautiful and heartbreaking performance as Alice Howland, a successful linguistics professor with a loving husband and several grown children who is stunned to find that she is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the story of her trying to keep it together even though she knows what is coming, and her family trying its best to take care of her as she disappears before their eyes. Alec Baldwin plays the husband who is as helpless as Alice against the disease, but tries to make her diminishing world as livable has he can. And Kristen Stewart is remarkably competent as her youngest daughter, a would-be actress who turns out to be the one who can help her Mom when she needs it most.

The Oscar nominated Live Action Shorts

The live action shorts are not nearly as short as the animated ones. Some even clock in at over a half hour. (The cut-off is 40 minutes.) I imagine that is because animation is so labor intensive. But the added time is not wasted. These movies are more than scenes cut from a longer story. They are stand-alone films where the narrative may be compact, but the characters live out their full arcs. And the genres for these films are as varied as the locations they cover — drama, fantasy, even comedy, in New York City, Somalia, and Afghanistan. All of them are extremely well made with interesting stories, directed with assurance and with some surprising casting choices. The full roster of shorts is showing in some theaters around the country, but I think that is a horrible way to see them. They should be seen one at a time before a feature, as the film gods intended. (You can view all the trailers at the end of this post and decide for yourself if you want to venture out ahead of the Oscars.)

A Separation

A Separation won the 2011 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, marking Iran’s first Academy Award ever. It was also nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category, unusual for any foreign film. While the world frets about their nuclear intentions and tension mounts, it is nice to see a fairly non-political depiction of life there. This is a film about relationships and cultures and power and truth, pretty universal themes played out on a very human scale and directed with a masterful hand.

El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes)

El Secreto de Sus Ojos was the very deserving winner of the 2010 Academy Award for best Foreign Film. (I have to admit it is the only one of those nominated that I have seen so far, so stay tuned.) It is both an absorbing crime thriller and a heartbreaking love story. Set in Buenos Aires, in the years between 1975 and 1999, the central character Benjamín Espósito is played by Ricardo Darín who reminds me of a Latin Alan Rickman, and I LOVE Alan Rickman. Darín is the same kind of sensitive, sensual actor.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)

This first feature won Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck the Oscar in 2007 for Best Foreign Film and I can see why. What a wonderful film! It takes place in East Germany in 1980s and concerns a successful playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his gorgeous actress girlfriend (Martina Gedeck) who are put under surveillance by Stasi, the secret police, in order to find something to use against the writer because a high ranking minister has a thing for the actress and wants him out of the way. Their apartment is bugged and an agent is set up in the attic listening to their every conversation, taking notes, making reports. Friends come and go and anything they say may be used against them without any court of law. But it is mostly just regular old boring conversation. Then a dear friend, a talented but blacklisted director, kills himself and the writer feels compelled to say something. So he decides to write a piece for Der Spiegel in West Germany, thereby putting himself directly in the police state’s sights if they find out who wrote the piece. The article is about how the East Germans decided to stop keeping statistics on suicides.