12 items from 2014
In the lead-up to the 86th annual Academy Awards on March 2, HitFix will be bringing you the lowdown on all 24 Oscar categories with multiple entries each day. Take a few notes and bone up on the competition as we give you the edge in your office Oscar pool! The eternally problematic Best Foreign Language Film category is one that's well known for springing surprises (usually not very pleasant or popular ones) on Oscar night. For the last couple of years, however, it has followed the script, with universally expected and approved wins for "A Separation" and "Amour." Were they simply too good to lose, or are we seeing the effects of the new voting system, which no longer requires members to see all the nominees before voting? With this year's contest far more competitive -- pitting four acclaimed Cannes premieres against a lower-profile tearjerker -- we may or may not be able to tell. »
- Guy Lodge
In 2002, Palestine made its first Best Foreign Language Film submission to the Academy Awards. Despite accepting films from Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not accept their submission. But by the next year, the policy had changed: the Palestinian Ministry of Culture’s submission, Divine Intervention by Elia Suleiman, was accepted. Three years later, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now, the acclaimed and controversial story of two Palestinian men planning a suicide attack on Tel Aviv, was not only accepted as Palestine’s submission, it was also one of the final five nominees competing […] »
- Livia Bloom
A version of this interview appeared in OscarWrap Palestine has been nominated for two foreign-language Oscars, and both have come from the same director, Hany Abu-Assad. Eight years ago he released “Paradise Now,” which landed the country’s first nomination and also sparked protests over the film’s depiction of two suicide bombers; now he’s back with “Omar,” a tense thriller about a Palestinian man living under occupation and the Israeli agent who tries to make him a collaborator. The film opens in Los Angeles on Friday, and Abu-Assad has been making regular trips to town since showing “Omar” at the AFI Fest. »
- Steve Pond
In his last film, the unforgettable Paradise Now, Palestinian writer-director Hany Abu-Assad created almost unbearable tension as he profiled two young suicide bombers with twenty-four hours to live. His new film takes a different tack: Omar is a character-based drama set in the occupied West Bank, where the title figure and his two best friends want to prove their mettle as freedom fighters, even as Omar and one’s pal’s younger sister fall in love and plan a future together. But Omar, well played by Adam Bakri, is naïve. For one thing, he underestimates the influence of the Israeli secret police. When he is captured after a deadly shooting, he learns that he may spend the rest of...
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- Leonard Maltin
With Omar, this is the second time Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (His previous effort, Paradise Now, ended up winning a Golden Globe only.) Even if you take away the political aspect, the film works as a superb noir that is as compelling as The Departed or any number of great undercover policiers of the West. Abu-Assad is a great storyteller. He doesn't have to resort to a satire to illustrate his point. Everything feels very real and immediate in Omar. And the 30-foot high concrete security wall speaks more volumes about the absurdity of the situation in which people engage themselves in the Occupied Territories than any political soapbox speech.If Paradise Now served in...
[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
Hany Abu-Assad's Omar, a political thriller and a love story set in the Occupied Territories, is Palestine's official entry for this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This is Abu-Assad's second nomination in that category since Paradise Now (2005). As a lover of cinema, Abu-Assad not only talked with me about Israeli-Palestinian issues but also the global cinema influences on making Omar and fiction as the pure form of expressing human condition in our media soaked society.Twitch: First of all, congratulations being nominated for the Academy Award for the second time.Hany Abu-Assad: Thank you.You've made Rana's Wedding, Paradise Now, and Omar in the Occupied Territories. How hard is it to shoot a film there logistically and politically? Life under the occupation is always difficult....
[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
This weekend, the legendary Mount Vesuvius erupts again in "Pompeii," starring Kit Harington ("Game of Thrones"), Kevin Costner stars opposite Amber Heard in the spy-thriller "3 Days to Kill," and several acclaimed independent and foreign films make their way to select theaters.
"Pompeii" stars Kit Harington as Milo, a slave-turned-gladiator, who falls in love with Cassia, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. As Mount Vesuvius erupts and slowly destroys the magnificent Roman province Pompeii, Milo must fight his way to Cassia (Emily Browning) and save them both. Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil") directs this historical action epic.
In "3 Days to Kill," Kevin Costner plays a dangerous international spy determined to retire and finally spend time with his wife and daughter. With his life suddenly on the line, he gets roped back in for one last assignment that -- if successfully completed -- could save his life and allow him to walk »
- Jonny Black
Oscar Diget continues with the look at an engrossing category, Best Foreign Language Film. From an aging playboy facing the end to a documentary about war torn Cambodia, the films in foreign language this year are an eclectic group with something to offer everyone. But which film will come out on top?
The Great Beauty
Logline: Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, Jep looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
Pros: Fellini-esque storytelling, about dealing with age and past experiences, gorgeous visuals
Cons: ”It’s rich white people problems: The Moive!”, the movie doesn’t really leave you feeling anything, not an “important” film
History of the Country: Italy has one of the richest Oscar histories, having amassed »
- Terence Johnson
Setting aside the gooey entertainment value of "Gravity" and "American Hustle," several of this year’s Oscar contenders share an uncharacteristically bleak quality, most notably "12 Years a Slave" and "The Act of Killing" — a double bill of persecution narratives that only a sadist would program. Yet even as Steve McQueen’s slavery opus and documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer’s disturbingly eccentric portrait of Indonesian torturers have managed a fair amount of publicity for their distinct approaches to dark human behavior, they’re not alone in that perspective. With best foreign language film nominee "Omar," which opens in limited release this week, they form one dour trifecta. But only "Omar," the tense account of a Palestinian man pressured by Israeli authorities to inform on his friends, takes place in the troubled present. The latest missive against the challenges of daily life in the Occupied Territories from Hany Abu-Assad (whose "Paradise Now," also an Oscar nominee, »
- Eric Kohn
The latest chin-out probe into the mutual-lockjaw Israeli-Palestinian scenario from Paradise Now's director Hany Abu-Assad, this zippy melodrama immediately homes in on an athletic Arab twentysomething (Adam Bakri) scaling the West Bank wall and shrugging off gunfire in order to visit his swooningly adorable girlfriend (Leem Lubany) and meet with her older brother, with whom he rather blithely trains to assassinate Israeli border guards.
Neither Omar himself nor Abu-Assad sees a conflict here, but we might, particularly once the would-be freedom fighters arbitrarily shoot a soldier; Omar is arrested, tortured, and released as a secret informer, and the two lovebirds continue to talk about getting married.
Collaboration becomes the primary dilemma — until a »
An Israeli soldier/interrogator and a Palestinian prisoner/artist face off across a hallucinatory no-man’s land in Jessica Habie’s fiction debut, “Mars at Sunrise.” As in Roman Polanski’s “Death and the Maiden,” tortured and torturer later collide unexpectedly, but neither Habie nor her hero is interested in retribution. Rather, the encounter sets off a fever dream of memories as the two characters invade each other’s nightmares on the battlefield of art. Based on real-life events, this quasi-experimental political two-hander is short on plot but long on impressionistic imagery, and may prove a hard sell outside festival and human-rights venues.
“Mars” is the first release from Eyes Infinite, the American-based nonprofit distributor of newly formed independent film collective Fajr Falestine, whose stated mission is to produce “thought-provoking, experimental cinema in the Middle East.” Habie’s non-generic outing certainly fills the bill. The filmmaker based her script on »
- Ronnie Scheib
The Oscar race is never a dull one and that couldn’t be any more apparent than in the race for Best Foreign Language film. This year is certainly shaping up to be a battle of David vs. Goliath if you looked at the histories of the countries competing. In one corner, you have Italy, with a whopping 12 wins in this category, facing off with a country like Cambodia, with no Oscar nominations. But such is the beauty of the awards season and the Oscars. So before the nominations come out, here’s an Oscar primer to get you caught up on the Foreign Language films.
Belgium – 2013 Nominee: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Logline/Synopsis: Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He’s a romantic atheist, she’s a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, »
- Terence Johnson
12 items from 2014