Review: Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

oscar shorts 2016Here I am back it after a brief hiatus and I’m happy that this year I am fortunate enough to bring you coverage of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films. Over the next few days, I will roll out reviews in each of the categories – documentary, animation and live action. Since I’m the resident documentary cat around here at Reel News Daily, I thought I would start off in that category. These films cover a variety of important and emotional topics from honor killings in Pakistan to the affects of Agent Orange on the youth of Vietnam to the fallout of capital punishment on the family of the accused. These five films hit every emotional string that you can imagine and leave an impression long after the viewing has ended.

Body Team 12

oscar shorts 16 - body team 12Body Team 12, directed by David Darg (as well as produced by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame as well as actress Olivia Wilde), follows one of the teams charged with removing the bodies of the those who died during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia this past year. It is shown through the perspective of the only female member. Body Team 12 is a moving portrait of community members doing an incredibly difficult and dangerous job to do their part to help curb the epidemic. That said, there are some incredibly difficult parts in watching family members of the deceased deal with the loss of their loved ones. The shortest film in the bunch at just over 13 minutes, Body Team 12 is able to pack a narrative wallop that hits you right in the gut, which makes it no wonder that it was nominated for an Oscar in this category. This film will debut on HBO in March.

 

Chau, beyond the lines

oscar shorts 16 chauChau, beyond the lines is a moving film about Chau, a young man whose body is deformed from his parents having been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Because of the degree of care he needed, Chau was sent to a peace camp (an orphanage of sorts) where other children – some more, others less – affected by Agent Orange live and are taken care of by a group of state-funded nurses. Chau is an artist at heart and spends his time dedicating himself to honing his craft, which isn’t easy because of the deformities that have affected his hands and arms. Every year, Chau submits a piece to a national contest for young artists across the country, each believing and hoping that he can win and garner some attention on the merits of his art, not his disabilities. Make no bones about it, this one is a difficult watch, but well worth it. This is a story that shows that nearly 45 years after the end of the war in Vietnam, the price is still paid for the hostilities. Chau has an unbelievably positive outlook on life and begs us to all ask the question, “why can’t we do the same?” Written and directed by Courtney Marsh.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

oscar shorts 16 - lanzmann posterAdam Benzine‘s short treatise on director Claude Lanzmann and the making of his seminal documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah. The director queries Lanzmann and others (including fellow documentarian Marcel Ophüls who calls Lanzmann a megalomaniac) about the struggles of making of the film as well as its impact. What can be sure is that Shoah is indeed a masterpiece and widely considered one of the best documentaries ever made. The 12 years that went into filming and editing this film took a toll on Lanzmann who was never the same after making it. From having to surreptitiously record conversations with former Nazis to getting beaten by some who found out his game to having to listen to the stories of those who survived concentration camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz, it’s no wonder. An incredilby affecting piece, Lanzmann is a person worthy of documenting, which makes sense since his life was devoted to the same thing. This film debuts on HBO in May.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

oscar shorts 16 - girl in the riverDirected by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is by far the film that I found had to most effect on me in this category. After a few contextual shots of the city of Gujranwala, Pakistan (population 5 million), the film opens with Saba Qaiser in the emergency room of the hospital, getting her face stitched up from a gunshot wound. Saba had been attacked by her father and uncle in an effort to kill her for dishonoring their family by marrying someone of a social class they didn’t believe high enough and disobeying her father’s orders. The film opens with a statistic that nearly every year, 1,000 of the so-called honor killings take place in Pakistan despite being illegal. Saba was fortunate in some ways to survive this attack. Fortunate in that she lived, but unfortunate that she must now face the pressing question of whether she should forgive her father and uncle and let them free from jail where they can essentially attack her again if they please. She is adamant against forgiving them and even goes so far as to say they should be killed in a public market as an example to any others considering doing this. However, the reality is her mother and sisters face a lifetime of shame because of her deeds and with her father the sole breadwinner in the house, they would likely not be able to support themselves. A decision that is heavier than anything I can imagine. That Obaid-Chinoy was able to access Saba throughout the entire ordeal makes this film really quite stunning and heartbreaking all the same. If I had a vote for the Oscar, this one gets mine. This film will also debut on HBO in March.

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Last Day of Freedom

oscar shorts 16 - last day of freedomThe final nominee is Last Day of Freedom directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, is one of the more innovative films nominated in this category I’ve seen to date. It is animated, a kind of mixture of recreations a la Errol Morris with a something that resembles the style of Richard Linklater‘s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The film allows Bill Babbitt to tell the story of his brother, Manny, a Vietnam vet who was arrested for murder and sentenced to death. The circumstances surrounding Manny‘s actions were colored by his PTSD and schizophrenia diagnosis, but somehow he still found himself on death row. Bill‘s account gives such a stark and emotional rendering of what it is like to live in the shadow of a loved one’s violent actions, that it wasn’t just the victim and their family who have suffered, but also the loved one’s of the perpetrator. Not only that, this films serves as a stark reminder, one that we seem to see all too many times these days, that justice is not always served.

 

By no means are these films uplifting as they all expose a piece of misery of that sticks with their subjects every single day. What they do do, as I think only documentaries can do, is shed light on subject matter that isn’t easy to face or confront and allow it to be seen in a way that is neither heavy-handed nor flippant. These films help us remind us that even at times when things are the shittiest, that humanity can still succeed. While I don’t have access to the many films that were submitted for this award, I can say that these films represent the documentary spirit well.

 

Check Out Richard Linklater’s Trailer to “Everybody Wants Some’

ews1-shtpayoff

Paramount Pictures has released the trailer for Everybody Wants Some, spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused directed by Richard Linklater.

The movie stars Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio, Temple Baker, Tanner Kalina, Juston Street and Forrest Vickery

Everybody Wants Some arrives in theatres on April 15, 2016

‘Boyhood 2’?! It’s A Possibility Says Richard Linklater

Boyhood_9

Richard Linklater is not afraid to continue a story if an idea presents itself. Previously creating a trilogy of films based around the Before Sunrise story, many have believed that the acclaimed director may be willing to continue the story which was set in motion in the critically acclaimed and award winning Boyhood film. For a year his answer has been quite non commmital, but now that award season has ended, it appears the thought has grown on the director. The director was on Jeff Goldsmith’s podcast recently and this is what he had to say:

“To be honest… this film first met its audience exactly a year ago and for the first six months of the year, my answer to that was absolutely not. This was twelve years, it was first grade through 12th grade; it was about getting out of high school. I had no idea about another story, there’s nothing to say. It hadn’t crossed my mind. But I don’t know if it’s been a combination of finally feeling that this is over or being asked a similar question a bunch over the last year, that I thought, well, I wake up in the morning thinking, ‘the 20s are pretty formative, you know?’ That’s where you really become who you’re going to be. It’s one thing to grow up and go to college, but it’s another thing to… So, I will admit my mind has drifted towards [this sequel idea].”

This is great news for fans of the film. Considering the possibilities of the continuing story of Mason would be a welcome addition to the original film, if done right, and with Linklater behind the lense, that is a foregone conclusion. The director has a proven track record of telling great stories and it is hard to believe this wouldn’t be handled in the best way possible. He went on to say:

“The twelve years structure came out of school structure. It wouldn’t have to be twelve years. It wouldn’t have to be… I mean, who knows. I mean, if I learned anything on the Before trilogy it took five years to realize that Jesse and Celine were still alive and had anything to say. This one would probably be more accelerated, but who knows.”

Continuing a story that has become beloved is a risk and it would take a commitment from all parties of the original film, Ellar Coltrane being the most important as it is his story. Would the cast return? Would Linklater really take on another story? He added:

“I’ve dealt with this before… I have, in my movies, touched on people in their 20s. So to what degree I’ll be going over certain territories again—I dunno, It’s impossible to say what may or may not come of it… I would love to keep working with this cast and I think we all would. But that can’t be the primary reason to do it. You always need something to say. You can’t do it just cause you want to work with your friends, you gotta have something really inside you you’re trying to communicate about those years. I might happen, but I dunno, it’s in the ether in the moment.”

Whether we see a return film will be a mystery until the cameras roll, but I for one would be lined up to see Adulthood or whatever it would be called.

If I Chose the Academy Award Winners and Nominees – 2015 edition

I’ve now seen most of the films that had a release in 2014. This makes me more qualified to vote for the Oscars than 97.548% of the Academy’s membership. With the Oscar ceremony occurring tonight, I’ve picked, as I have the previous two years, who I think the nominees and winners should be in the bulk of the major categories. Once again, the foreign film category will be left off because I simply haven’t had access to enough foreign films to make a comment on them. Those that have made it to my neck of the woods, I will say, have been very good for the most part. Read More →

Winners of the 20th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards Have Been Announced

ccmas

The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards took place last night at the Hollywood Palladium, hosted by Michael Strahan, broadcast live on A&E.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood as well as Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s Birdman were among the top winners along with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Read More →

Reel News Daily’s Top Movies of 2014 on The Reel Big Show!

best-movies-of-2014

It’s a full house on The Reel Big Show! Michael leads the group in discussion of their favorite movies of 2014, the night before the Oscar nominations. Below are their lists – with bold for which were nominated. See the list of nominations at Oscar.org.

Check out the fun IMDb quiz based on the 36 movies in all the lists!
Read More →

Retro Review: ‘Boyhood’- Growing Up is Hard to Do

boyhood-teaser-posterAll too many times Hollywood uses the phrase “Once in a Lifetime” to describe a film that we’ve encountered way too many times before, but finally, a director and film studio have come thru and brought us a film like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Boyhood is that film and it just might be the best movie you will see all year.  Directed by industry legend Richard Linklater, the film is a true labor of love.  The film, shot intermittently over a twelve-year period, follows a young  boy named Mason through his childhood from first grade (age 6) thru his high school graduation (age 18). It’s a documented journey that will most likely never be duplicated in our lifetime and one that will resonate with each viewer for decades to come. Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘I AM ELEVEN’ is universally charming.

I Am Eleven_IAmEleven_posterWhen I was 11, I was dancing 5 days a week, going to girl scouts and slumber parties. Life was pretty incredible. I had not a worry in the world then. I did what I wanted, wore what I wanted, (when not in school uniform), loved The New Kids on The Block, and scrunchies. Everyday I came home from school and ate two pieces of American cheese folded into fourths. I was kind of peculiar, graceful yet awkward, bright and precocious, but I had a ton of friends and loved every day I was alive. Australian documentarian, Genevieve Bailey, recalls being just as happy at age 11. As an adult, she wondered if that was the case for kids today. Taking time off to travel, she decided that along here journey she would interview kids that were 11 and find out if they were as happy as we remembered being then. I AM ELEVEN proves to be a beautiful phenomenon and on the heels of the release of Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD, the timing could not be more perfect. Read More →

Reel News Daily’s Top Summer Movies of 2014

TopSummerMovies2014At one point the Summer Season was depicted by the film’s released between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, but the time’s have changed and so has Hollywood. Summer tent-pole films are being released earlier and earlier to avoid the cluster of blockbusters being released weekly to capitalize on the lack of competition which of course means more money. So we’ve decided to expand our scope and include April into out Top Summer Movies of 2014…buuuuut we’re also cutting off the last 2 weeks of August…so sue us!

Jeremy‘s List

10. Fort Tilden
9. Obvious Child
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
7. Calvary
6. Life Itself
5. Bluebird
4. Snowpiercer
3. Boyhood
2. Under the Skin
1. Only Lovers Left Alive

Liz‘s List

10. Neighbors
9. Chef
8. Coherence
7. Filth
6. Dom Hemingway
5. Frank
4. About Alex
3. Boyhood
2. Snowpiercer
1. Only Lovers Left Alive

Michael‘s List

10. Edge of Tomorrow
9. Filth
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
7. Nymphomaniac
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2. Snowpiercer
1. Boyhood

Melissa‘s List

10. Coherence
9. Godzilla
8. Locke
7. Dom Hemingway
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Filth
4. Frank
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
1. Snowpiercer


Read More →

Liz’s ‘Boyhood’ New York City Press Junket Coverage

Monday, I had the pleasure of participating in the New York press junket for BOYHOOD. In attendance were writer/director Richard Linklater, breakout star, Ellar Coltrane, and industry strongholds Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. With the film’s highly anticipated release, everyone in the theater was eager to get some deeper insight into this innovative new film. Below you will find some of my favorite highlights from the afternoon.

DSC_0006

 This movie is about growing up. Can you tell us what you remember about your first kiss? Read More →

Liz’s Review: ‘Boyhood’ – A Cinephile’s Dream

BOYHOOD-poster

How do you keep track of your life? With technology these days, it seems that we experience less and less and take digital snapshots of everything we eat, see, hear, and feel. Time is being recorded in short snippets each day. But do all these moments resonate to anyone but ourselves? We cannot forget how we got here. Life and time is not something that can be repeated. We need to pay more attention.

In Richard Linklater’s newest film, BOYHOOD, we are privy to 12 years of not just snapshots but real life moments in time. We not only follow Mason, but his mother, Olivia, father, Mason Sr. and sister, Samantha. 12 entire years of filming one family (and the same actors) through the eyes of a young boy of just 5, into his 18th year. These are the formative years that shape who we are. How we view our mother, father, and siblings forever impacts the choices we make in the future. In Boyhood we are along for moments like family outings, bike rides, first kisses, school, jobs, fights, marriages, both good and bad. These seemingly mundane moments are weaved into a brilliant narrative unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a film until now. Read More →