Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar Death Race pt. 3 (Foreigners and Docs)

So I haven't seen most of these movies. So what. We're rollin rollin rollin.

Best Documentary Feature

- The Betrayal - Nerakhoon - dir. Ellen Kuras; Thavisouk Phrasavath
- Encounters at the End of the World - dir. Werner Herzog
- The Garden - dir. Scott Hamilton Kennedy
- Man on Wire - dir. James Marsh
- Trouble the Water - dir. Tia Lessin; Carl Deal

Who should/will win?: I've only been lucky enough to enjoy two of these, neither of which is Trouble the Water a movie that I could see taking this based purely on subject matter, though it's been getting pretty great reviews as well. Betrayal and The Garden I don't expect will mount much of an effort here, and neither will Werner Herzog's Antarctica exploration Encounters at the End of the World, which was fun in parts and pretty hilariously narrated, but didn't really pull me in all the way. So that leaves us with Trouble the Water and Man on Wire, which has been winning enough awards for me to pick it here. It doesn't hurt that it's about the World Trade Center (though not explicitly about 9/11) and that it's pretty great. I've seen it twice now, and it manages to inspire a sense of awe as well as any other movie this year.

What got snubbed?: My favorite doc of 08 was Margaret Brown's the Order of Myths, about Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama, the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. It's the best and most incisive thing I've seen about race in a while. It's available for instant viewing on Netflix so get to your Instant Queue/Roku immediately.

Best Documentary, Short Subject

- The Conscience of Nhem En - dir. Steven Okazaki
- The Final Inch - dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky
- Smile Pinki - dir. Megan Mylan
- The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 - dir. Adam Pertofsky

Yeah, I got nothin'. Matty's seen the Final Inch. He says "It was about Polio". I'm picking The Conscience of Nhem En, which is about the Khmer Rouge. Why not?

Best Foreign Language Film

- The Baader Meinhof Komplex (Germany) - dir. Uli Edel
- Entre les murs (the Class) (France) - dir. Laurent Cantet
- Okuribito (Departures) (Japan) - dir. Yojiro Takita
- Revanche (Austria) - dir. Götz Spielmann
- Vals Im Bashir (Waltz With Bashir) (Israel) - dir. Ari Folman

The process behind this category is terrible, as countries around the world are forced to choose one film to submit the competition. So while the IndieWire poll's top 2 (Flight of the Red Balloon and A Christmas Tale) would prolly get nominated in an open field, they're shucked here in favor of the Class, which I saw today at Angelika and was pretty impressed with.

It's a movie about a teacher that doesn't suck! This in itself is quite an achievement. And though it does resort to kind of having a bit of plot for about 20 minutes towards the end, it's a fairly realist, matter-of-fact account life at a Paris school. The lead part is actually played by François Bégaudeau, who wrote the screenplay based on his semi-autobiographical book. This is the kind of conceit that I eat up with a large spoon (ideally out of a bread bowl of some sort). The kids are played by non-actors too. It's all very complex and good about language and education and failure and I love it so.

Waltz With Bashir is also quite fun and has a shot here, but I think the Palme d'or winner is gon bring it back to France. The Class it is.

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