Tanna

Imagine Romeo and Juliet set among the Yakel tribes of the island of Tanna in the small nation of Vanuatu. The tribe people speak a rare dialect called Nivhaal, and, except for the grass-skirts that the women wear and the penis-sheaths for the men, they are naked. What is most extraordinary about Tanna is that Australian directors, Martin Butler and Bentley Dean have based their Romeo and Juliet on real events that happened to that tribe 30 years ago. Some of the non-actors in the film are playing their own role. You understand that it is about two doomed lovers. Teenagers Wawa (Marie Wawa) and Dain (Mungau Dain) are in love. The handsome Dain is the grandson of the Yakel chief, and returning to the village after an absence, he reconnects with his childhood crush Wawa. The whole thing is observed by Wawa’s little sister Selin (Marceline Rofit). Selin is a bit of a pest, asking Wawa what is happening (even though she knows that her sister is in love with Dain), following her sister, spying on her. Selin is also able to run barefoot through the jungle faster than most people. Marceline Rofit’s fierce running is reminiscent of Quvenzhané Wallis in Beast of the southern wild. When the sister’s grandfather is attacked by members of a rival tribe, Selin runs to the village to tell them what she saw. After the grandfather dies, a meeting between the two tribes is set to arrange a peaceful truce. To make peace a marriage is arranged between Wawa and the son of the chief the rival tribe. The two lovers escape from the village to avoid being separated. This angers the rival tribe and puts their tribe in danger. Mixing documentary and fiction film techniques is nothing new. The films of Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the north in 1922 or Man of Aran in 1934) are good example. But this was a long time ago. The genre has been dead for quite some time. The cast is entirely made of non-professional tribe people, and they are filmed in their natural habitat, doing the things they probably do every days. It is their rituals, their dances and their chants. There is a minimum of artificiality, if any. It is real. That is maybe why there is not a bad actor among them. They are not acting. And the people are charming. Marie Wawa and Mungau Dain make a lovely couple. But as Salin Marceline Rofit steals the movie. That only would be enough to see the film. The breathtaking landscapes, magnificently photographed by director Bentley Dean, who does double duty as cinematographer, is another reason. Tanna is a beautiful, charming and compelling film. A pure joy.

And the Oscar went to… The Australian entry for Best foreign language film, Tanna made the final list of five films to compete on Oscar night. It is strong enough to have won. But Iran’s The salesman was the winner.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from June 16 – 25
http://www.bytowne.ca/movie/tanna

Tanna

Directed by:
Martin Butler
Bentley Dean

Screenplay by:
Martin Butler
Bentley Dean

Starring:
Mungau Dain
Marie Wawa
Marceline Rofit
Albi Nangia

100 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In Nivhaal with English subtitles.

I am not your negro

James Baldwin’s Remember this house was his remembrances of Civil Rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Within five years all three were assassinated. The documentary I am not your negro uses the words from the unfinished manuscript (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) as narration, film archives, photos and Baldwin being interviewed on TV to document the history of the American Civil Rights movement. On The Dick Cavett show, Cavett seems caught off guards by Baldwin’s serious tone. It’s as if he expected Baldwin to start joking. But for James Baldwin racial segregation was no laughing matter. Tired of American prejudice against blacks, Baldwin left the US in 1948 to go live in France to continue his writing career in freedom. He came back in 1957, after seeing a photo of a black teenage girl entering a desegregated school. She is surrounded be white teens who are spitting on her. That and other images are powerfully inserted in this film. The violent and racist images of the 50s and 60s (photos of white men and boys holding signs with racist slurs and swastika on them) are sometimes mixed with more recent events: the Rodney King beating (I had no idea that his beating had been so violent and intense) and more recent killings of black people by police officers and the Ferguson, Missouri protest. Once he came back in America, Baldwin started to work alongside Evers, Macolm X and MLK. We see him during the 1963 March on Washington with Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr and white actors Marlon Brando and Charlton Heston. He talked and wrote at length about anything relevant to the African-American experience. This included commenting about groundbreaking films like Guess who’s coming to dinner? and In the heat of the night, both films made in 1967 and starred Sidney Poitier. The most powerful moment in the film comes with a clip of a Technicolor Doris Day film. Whiter than white Day, all teeth glaring, is shown in all her glory while we hear her singing a syrupy song. It is juxtaposed with black-and-white photos of black people hanging from trees. Chilling effect! The fact that James Baldwin was gay is only mentioned in a FBI report, proof that Edgar J Hoover was investigating all Civil Rights activists as possible threats for the nation. This documentary is crucial and might be an eye opener for certain people who think that racism does not exist anymore or, worse still, never existed. It has to be seen.

And the Oscar went to… I am not your negro was nominated for Best documentary feature. It lost to O.J.: Made in America who is more than 7 hours long.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

I am not your negro

Directed by:
Raoul Peck

Screenplay by:
James Baldwin
Raoul Peck
from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember this house

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson as James Baldwin

95 min.

Land of mine (Under sandet)

In Denmark during World War II, the German occupier had installed over 1.5 million landmines mostly on the Danish west coast. When the war was over, and Germany surrendered, the Danish government decided that the German prisoners of war would detonate the mines. When we first meet Sgt. Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller), it is clear he does not like the Germans. It was a long and bloody war and Rasmussen has, in Land of mine’s first scene, a violent outburst where he beats up a young German POW to a pulp. Rasmussen is put in charge of a small group of young Germans POW. Among them is Sebastian Schumann (Louis Hofmann) and twin brothers, Ernst and Werner Lessner (Emil and Oskar Belton). At first Rasmussen is not very sympathetic towards them. But when he was assigned, he had no idea that they would be so young. They are teenagers, kids really. Add to the difficult pressures those boys are under the fact that they do not get any food sent to them. As he sees them getting sick, Rasmussen makes a decision to bring them food, even if that means getting in trouble with his superior, Lt. Ebbe (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). Based on a little-told story, Land of mine’s director Martin Zandvliet keeps the tension to unbearable levels. Any moment the audience may see a mine blow up and one of the boys killed or badly injured. Land of mine is the most tense film I’ve seen in a while. Møller and Hofmann have great chemistry together. But the excellent acting from the young cast should also be mentioned. This is not an easy film to watch, for sure, but Land of mine is a worthy film that should be seen.

And the Oscar went to… Land of mine lost the Best foreign language film to Asghar FarhadI’s The salesman from Iran.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Land of mine (Under sandet)

Directed by:
Martin Zandvliet

Screenplay by:
Martin Zandvliet

Starring:
Roland Møller
Louis Hofmann
Joel Basman
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard
Oskar Bökelmann

100 min.

In Danish and German with English subtitles.

The salesman (Forushande)

Asghar FarhadI’s The salesman is a modern-day tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. The main characters are not Kings and Queens, like in a Shakespeare drama, but ordinary Iranians. To make matters clear, FarhadI has husband and wife Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidootsi) acting in a local production of Arthur Miller’s modern tragedy Death of a salesman. In fact, their life has started to take a downward spiral. They had to flee their apartment building in the middle of the night because it was literally crumbling (the windows were starting to crack). They rent an apartment from a friend who hides the fact that the previous tenant was a prostitute. One day, while in the shower, Rana is attacked by a client of the prostitute. Emad feels totally helpless and angry when he sees his wife so traumatized by the violent attack, and he is consumed with finding the man who did such a terrible assault on her. Just as he did with his two previous films, A separation and Le passé, FarhadI proves to be a masterful storyteller. The screenplay is constantly shifting to different points of view to allow for the maximum dramatic impact and tensions. Likewise, Rana who is understandably emotionally distraught after her ordeal, becomes, by the film’s conclusion, the stronger of the two characters and the moral compass of the film. Both Hosseini and Alidootsi are subtle and minimalist in their approach to acting. There is not an ounce of over acting between them. If FarhadI is a tad less focused here than in his two previous films, he makes up for it with a strong sense of drama and tragedy.

And the Oscar went to… The salesman is Iran’s entry as Foreign language film. It won. But Asghar FarhadI decided to boycott the ceremony when Donald Trump issued a Muslim travel ban involving seven Muslim countries, including Iran. To accept the award FarhadI sent two prominent Iranian-Americans: One of the few female astronaut Anousheh Ansari, and former NASA executive Firouz Naderi. Ansari read a statement from FarhadI. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” It was the political statement with the strongest impact.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The salesman (Forushande)

Directed by:
Asghar FarhadI

Screenplay by:
Asghar FarhadI

Starring:
Taraneh Alidoosti
Shahab Hosseini
Babak Karimi
Farid Sajjadi Hosseini
Mina Sadati

125 min.

In Persian with English subtitles.

Oscar nominated animated shorts 2016

I found this year’s Oscar nominated animated shorts to be a mixed bag. Some are great, others are OK. And I found one of them dreadful. Even so, it still interested to see and judge for ourself. Like in previous years, the five nominated films are not long enough for a feature-length program. Three films have been added, two of them were among the ten films on Oscar’s short list but did not make the final pick as a nominee. So here it goes.

Borrowed time (Nominee)
An old West sheriff on the decline revisits the past atop a mountain. Strong contender. Computer animation. 7 min.

Pearl (Nominee)
A girl and her dad and their car. Later on she gets to drive the car, own it and live her own life. Well drawn but short on plot. 6 min.

Piper (Winner)
Canadian director Alan Barillaro’s Pixar/Disney amazing computer animated short a cute baby shorebirds trying to find food on a beach. At 6 minutes it is too short. More please!

Blind Vaysha (Nominee)
A girl who sees the past with one eye and the future with the other. She never sees the present. The usual from Canada’s National film board. A bit boring. 8 min.

The head vanishes (Among the ten films on Oscar’s short list)
An elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer and dementia is walking around without a head. A Canada (National film board) and France co-production. 9 min.

Asteria
Two astronauts are ready to plant a flag on a newly discovered planet. But some other species got there before them, Much fun. 5 min.

Once upon a line (Among the ten films on Oscar’s short list)
A man who lives in a black line world comes across a lady from a pink line universe. Chaos follows. Clever. 7 min.

(Please note, this is the last film in the programme and is NOT suitable for young children. A warning card will advise parents prior to the start of this short.)

Pear cider and cigarettes (Nominee)
Canadian animator Robert Valley’s tale of his alcoholic friend Techno Stypes and his health problems. At 35 minutes it is too long and repetitive. Simply dreadful. Does not belong among the nominees.

And the Oscar went to … I predicted that Piper would win, and it did. Sometimes you get it, others you don’t.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Oscar nominated animated shorts 2016

Directed by:
Theodore Ushev
Andrew Coats
Lou Hamou-Lhadj
Patrick Osborne
Alan Barillaro
Franck Dion
Lola Grand
Alexandre Arpentinier
Mathieu Blanchys
Tristan Lamarca
Thomas Lemaille
Jean-Charles Lusseau
Alicja Jasina
Robert Valley

86 min.

Rated 14A

Oscar nominated Live Action shorts 2016

Like every year the Oscar nominated Live Action shorts 2016 showcase offers short fiction films on a variety of topics. Really the best in international films. Some years from now, some of those short film directors may have a significant career in feature films. Those five films are all excellent.

From Hungary Mindenki (Sing). Zsófi is the new girl at school and dreams of joining the choir. But she is heartbroken by what the teacher is asking her to do. In Hungarian with English subtitles. 25 min.

From Denmark Silent nights. A volunteer at a Danish homeless shelter has an affair with a Ghanian refugee. They are surrounded by racism. In English, Danish and Ghanian dialect with English subtitles. 30 min.

El corredor (Timecode) from Spain. A clever comedy about two parking-garage security guards and dancing at work. In Spanish with English subtitles. 15 min.

France’s Ennemis interieurs (Enemies within). An Algerian-French man has to through a difficult interrogation and prodding questions by a young inspector in order to obtain a passport. In French with English subtitles. 28 min.

La femme et la TGV (The railroad lady) is from Switzerland. Stars Jane Birkin as an elderly woman who receives an unexpected letter from a high-speed train engineer. In French with English subtitles. 30 min.

And the Oscar went to… Sing won. All the nominees were good, so it was a good choice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Oscar nominated Live Action shorts 2016

Directed by:
Selim Aazzazi
Aske Bang
Kristof Deak
Juanjo Giménez Peña
Timo von Gunten

132 min.

Rated 14A

Toni Erdmann

Initially, Toni Erdmann did not seem to be a film that would appeal to me. But as the film and its characters progressed, I came to like it and occasionally found it very funny. Peter Simonischek stars as Winfried Conradi. Winfried is an elderly music teacher who likes to play pranks on his friends and family. He especially likes to wear makeup and pretend to be someone else. Or the simple act of wearing false teeth is enough for him. He always carries them in his shirt pockets. But when Winfried’s daughter visits him, it is clear that they don’t exactly connect very well. Ines (Sandra Hüller) is a serious outsourcing consultant. Winfried is wearing zombie makeup and, of course, Ines is looking at him as if he was an alien. After she goes back to work, Winfried surprises her in the lobby of the building where she works. He is wearing those false teeth and sunglasses. After the initial shock, Ines invites her dad at a reception and they spend a few days together. But it does not go well. She spends her time on the phone or working, and all he thinks about is making jokes at the most inopportune moment. He soon leaves. But it is clear they love each other. So Winfried is going to call on his favourite persona, Toni Erdmann, to teach Ines how to let loose, let go and relax a bit. I won’t tell you more, except that it is extremely funny, surprising and unconventional. The force of the film is the screenplay and the two main actors. From the start Peter Simonischek creates a character that has the likeness of a sad clown, unafraid to dare the audience, as he does with Ines, to look inward. Hüller’s Ines is an awkward , unhappy woman who wears her heart on her sleeves. In the third act, Hüller surprises us by taking over the film. And the Maren Ade screenplay has a feeling of a comedy of errors of Shakespearean proportion without being too pretentious. At 2 hours and 42 minutes it is a bit long. But we need that build-up. Impressive.

And the Oscar went to… Toni Erdmann lost Best foreign language film to The salesman from Iran.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Toni Erdmann

Directed by:
Maren Ade

Screenplay by:
Maren Ade

Starring:
Sandra Hüller
Peter Simonischek
Michael Wittenborn
Thomas Loibl
Trystan Pütter
Hadewych Minis

162 min.

Rated 14A

In German, English and Romanian with English subtitles.

The red turtle

The red turtle is one of the best animated feature film I’ve ever seen. It is certainly the most beautiful. It tells the tale of a man shipwrecked on a deserted island. After exploring the island, the man realizes that he is indeed alone, except for a small colony of crabs, that acts as the film’s comic relief. The man is comfortably settled into a routine of days at the beach, and sleeping under the stars, on a diet of coconuts and other exotic fruits. After a while though, he feels the desire to rejoin civilisation. He build a raft from bamboo trees and sails away from the island. But he doesn’t go very far because the raft is suddenly attacked and destroyed by an unseen underwater animal. The man does not know what animal that would be. He swims back to the island. Later, he builds a second raft, and again it is destroyed. The man still has no clue what it could be, but it is obvious that something won’t let him leave the island. On his third try he comes face to face with an enormous red turtle just before it breaks the third raft. To tell you more would spoil the film. Let’s just say that I would describe The red turtle as an animated romantic fantasy. Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit’s first feature was funded by Japanese producers. The red turtle shows eastern and western influences, using both hand-drawn and computer-drawn animation techniques. Quiet and poetic one moment (it has no dialogue, except for the occasional international “Hey!”), The red turtle can suddenly become spectacularly powerful. The same could be said about the work of soundmen Sébastien Marquilly, Matthieu Michaux and Florian Fabre, and a magnificent score by Laurent Perez del Mar. Dudok de Wit’s drawings are visually stunning. Images of the sea (waves, underwater sequences and the dangers of the ocean) are particularly effective. Simply breathtaking and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Not to be missed.

And the Oscar went to… Best animated feature film went to Zootopia. Unfortunate.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The red turtle

Directed by:
Michael Dudok de Wit

Screenplay by:
Michael Dudok de Wit
Pascale Ferran

80 min.

Rated General.

89th Academy awards winners

Major screw up! What turned out to be a relatively quiet evening, ended with a “first”, a “never happened before” gaffe. The wrong winner was announced. That it happened to the Best picture category will go down in Oscar history as the most memorable moment in any Oscar-casts. Ever! Damien Chazelle’s La la land was falsely named Best picture, and after a few minutes of confusion, the real winner turned out to be Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. Beside that, nothing else to report, beside a few awkward anti-Trump speeches. Host Jimmy Kimmel was effective, funny and did not get in the way of the award ceremony. This is good. But boy, oh boy, that dramatic ending… not good! Winners are in bold and red.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Best picture

Arrival (Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde)

Fences (Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington and Todd Black)

Hacksaw ridge (Bill Mechanic and David Permut)

Hell or high water (Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn)

Hidden figures (Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi)

La la land (Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt)

Lion (Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Angie Fielder)

Manchester by the Sea (Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck and Kevin J. Walsh)

Moonlight (Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner)

 

Actor in a leading role

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La la land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

 

Actress in a leading role

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone (La la land)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

 

Actor in a supporting role

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Jeff Bridges (Hell or high water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal animals)

 

Actress in a supporting role

Viola Davis (Fences)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

 

Directing

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw ridge)

Damien Chazelle (La la land)

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

 

Writing (Adapted screenplay)

Arrival (Screenplay by Eric Heisserer)

Fences (Screenplay by August Wilson)

Hidden figures (Screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi)

Lion (Screenplay by Luke Davies)

Moonlight (Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney)

 

Writing (Original screenplay)

Hell or high water (Written by Taylor Sheridan)

La la land (Written by Damien Chazelle)

The lobster (Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou)

Manchester by the Sea (Written by Kenneth Lonergan)

20th Century women (Written by Mike Mills)

 

Animated feature film

Kubo and the two strings (Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner)

Moana (John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer)

My life as a zucchini (Claude Barras and Max Karli)

The red turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki)

Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer)

 

Cinematography

Bradford Young (Arrival)

Linus Sandgren (La la land )

Greig Fraser (Lion)

James Laxton (Moonlight)

Rodrigo Prieto (Silence)

 

Production design

Arrival (Production design: Patrice Vermette; Set decoration: Paul Hotte)

Fantastic beasts and where to find them (Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)

Hail, Ceasar! (Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh)

La la land (Production Design: David Wasco; Set Decoration: Sandy Reynolds-Wasco)

Passengers (Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena)

 

Sound mixing

Arrival (Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye)

Hacksaw ridge (Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace)

La la land (Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow)

Rogue one: A star wars story (David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson)

13 Hours: The secret soldiers of Benghazi (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth)

 

Sound editing

Arrival (Sylvain Bellemare)

Deepwater horizon (Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli)

Hacksaw ridge (Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright)

La la land (Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan)

Sully (Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman)

 

Music (Original song)

“Audition (The fools who dream)” from La la land (Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

“Can‘t stop the feeling” from Trolls (Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

“City of stars” from La la land (Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

“The empty chair” from Jim: The James Foley story (Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting)

“How far I‘ll go” from Moana (Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

 

Music (Original score)

Mica Levi (Jackie)

Justin Hurwitz (La la land)

Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka (Lion)

Nicholas Britell (Moonlight)

Thomas Newman (Passengers)

 

Documentary (Feature)

Fire at sea (Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo)

I am not your negro (Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety and Hébert Peck)

Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman)

O.J : Made in America (Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow)

13th (Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish)

 

Documentary (Short subject)

Extremis (Dan Krauss)

4.1 Miles (Daphne Matziaraki)

Joe’s violin (Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen)

Watani : My homeland (Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis)

The white helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara)

 

Short film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev)

Borrowed time (Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj)

Pear cider and cigarettes (Robert Valley and Cara Speller)

Pearl (Patrick Osborne)

Piper (Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer)

 

Short film (Live action)

Ennemis intérieurs (Sélim Azzazi)

La femme et le TGV (Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff)

Silent nights (Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson)

Sing (Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy)

Timecode (Juanjo Giménez)

 

Film editing

Arrival (Joe Walker)

Hacksaw ridge (John Gilbert)

Hell or high water (Jake Roberts)

La la land (Tom Cross)

Moonlight (Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon)

 

Costume design

Allied (Joanna Johnston)

Fantastic beasts and where to find them (Colleen Atwood)

Florence Foster Jenkins (Consolata Boyle)

Jackie (Madeline Fontaine)

La la land (Mary Zophres)

 

Makeup and hairstyling

A man called Ove (Eva von Bahr and Love Larson)

Star trek beyond (Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo)

Suicide squad (Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson)

 

Visual effects

Deepwater horizon (Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton)

Doctor Strange (Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould)

The jungle book (Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon)

Kubo and the two strings (Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff)

Rogue one: A star wars story (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould)

 

Foreign language film

Land of mine (Denmark)

A man called Ove (Sweden)

The salesman (Iran)

Tanna (Australia)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

20th Century women

It’s 1979, and teenage boy Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is being raised by his single mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening). But there is also a lodger, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a quirky, twenty-something, amateur photographer, pink-haired punk. Gerwig has redefined quirkiness , turned it on its head and back again until it has become her own brand of idiosyncratic acting. In other words: It is unique, indescribable and occasionally can be a bit annoying. Jamie’s best friend is Julie (Elle Fanning). Julie is a slightly older, insecure girl who spends her nights sleeping with Jamie in his bed and still wants the relationship to remain platonic. But, of course, all that Jamie wants is to have sex with Julie. The only male influence around the house is William (Billy Crudup), a handyman who lodges at the house. William and Dorothea were once lovers, but the film isn’t exactly clear on what’s the status of their relation. Dorothea feels totally inadequate as a mother. At 65, with one foot still in the past (“She’s from the Depression.”), she’s trying as best she can to understand Jamie. But he too pains to understand his mother. She asks Abbie and Julie to try to guide him. Writer-director Mike Mills’ 2010 film Beginners told the true story about his father coming out as gay at 75 years old. Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for it. Mills calls 20th Century women a “loveletter” to the women who raised him. He based the character of Dorothea on his mother, Abbie on his sister and Julie on a friend. He uses the same techniques here (voice-over narrations, film archives and photos to underline the narrations), but 20th Century women is more focus. And I found some the comedy very effective. There is a hilarious scene after suppertime at Dorothea‘s, where Abbie keeps saying the most inappropriate, embarrassing things, making the guest cringe. A perfect “crawl under the table” moment. With perfect comic timing, the amazing Annette Bening’s Dorothea is a chain-smoking, strong-willed mother with an icy quizzical stare that would scare off many people. There is talk of an Oscar nomination for her. We’ll know soon.

And the Oscar went to… I thought there was no way that Mike Mills could win for his spirited screenplay. The winner was Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the sea.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

20th Century women

 

Directed by:

Mike Mills

Screenplay by:

Mike Mills

 

Starring:

Annette Bening

Greta Gerwig

Elle Fanning

Lucas Jade Zumann

Billy Crudup

 

118 min.

 

Rated 14A