The Oscar nominations are out, and in spite of the fact that Bradley Cooper was robbed of one and possibly even two nominations, it’s time for our Umpteenth Annual Laemmle Oscar Contest! Correctly guess how the Academy will vote and win movie passes good at all Laemmle venues and Laemmle Virtual Cinema.
Please note: this year neither the animated nor live action short programs are appropriate for children.
“An eyeball-slicing polemic by a bomb-throwing provocateur.” ~ Josh Kupecki, Austin Chronicle
“Amid so many earnest, forgettable COVID-era and COVID-acknowledging movies around the world, here’s one that truly goes for it.” ~ Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“The film first appeared out of long discussions with friends. On a few occasions we discussed real-life stories from Romania and other countries, of teachers being expelled from schools where they were teaching because of what they were doing in their private lives: live-cam sex chat or posting amateur porn recordings on the internet. The discussions were so heated, it made me think that although the topic seems trivial and shallow, there must be a lot more behind it if reactions to it are so powerful. Then I decided to make a film – so now I have the last word in front of my friends, they cannot come up with something like that.
“The film has three parts which engage each other in poetic ways – understanding “poetic” according to Malraux’s definition: “Without doubt all true poetry is irrational in that it substitutes, for the ‘established’ relation of things, a new system of relations.”
“While the film title is mostly self-explanatory, its subtitle, ‘a sketch for a popular film’, could benefit from an explanation. Malraux once noted that “Delacroix, though affirming the superiority of the finished painting over the sketch, kept many of his sketches, whose quality as works of art he considered equal to that of his best paintings.” The idea struck me as relevant and I decided to apply it in filmmaking and try to see what a film would look like if its form was left open, unfinished, like a sketch. And yes, “popular”, since I believe the film could be easy like a summer breeze and because of its tabloid-like topic. But it is not a real popular film. Only a sketch of a possible one.”
On shooting in COVID times:
“The first lockdown ended in Romania at the end of May and we were supposed to film in October and November. When we saw that the second wave of Covid-19 was coming (at the beginning of July), me and the producer Ada Solomon had to decide: either we stick to the plan (which meant also applying for extra funding), with the risk of postponing the shooting in case the crisis worsens, or we film sooner with the money we have. We opted for the latter and started to prepare the film. The number of cases was rising, so I had also to decide how to interact with people. I strongly believe that, as a director, you have a certain responsibility towards the cast and crew.
“When I was young, I really admired all the crazy shoots I read about: Way Down East, Aguirre, Apocalypse Now etc. I still admire them, but I am too weak: I try not to risk the life or health of anybody when it comes to shooting. I don’t think any film in the world is worth someone contracting even a common cold, and my bad films – even less. With these in mind, I did all the casting, and all the rehearsals on Zoom and decided to have the crew wearing masks. And also, even the cast. Firstly, because the film was supposed to be contemporary and the masks were part of our daily life and I wanted to capture this moment, to find the anthropological aspect of the mask-wearing. Secondly, because I cared about the health of the people involved. You know, many of them are in the film at my invitation. I was the host and I felt responsible. Most of the people agreed with these safety regulations. Some of them, more vulnerable, agreed to do the film only because I promised them that the rules of social distancing and protection will be severely respected. We all tested for Covid-19 before shooting and two times more.
“If you went down on the street during this time, the signs that remained — posters for concerts, empty restaurants, and so on and so forth — were already signs of a non-existent reality. Cinema has this possibility to capture things, to capture the signs of the time passing, to make a capsule of the moment in many ways.
“In the first shooting day, Ada Solomon, our producer, explained to everyone that wearing the mask is mandatory on set for the whole film, that we must change it every 4 hours (they were provided free by the production), that we have only sandwiches as catering (for obvious reasons). Everybody (literally: everybody) agreed. And most of us respected the rules, although it was exhausting, and wearing a mask in severe heat for 12 hours a day can be horrible. Then, there were some crew or cast members sometimes not respecting the rules, which made our shoot more challenging than it could have been. I am not against people who break the rules, on the contrary, if it involves only their bodies. I am against breaking the rules when you endanger or harm others. The great thing on a film set (or on my sets, anyway) is that everyone has the same rights as everyone else: the same working hours (apart from special situations, like a more time-consuming make-up etc.), the same food, the same accommodation or transport. So, it was quite disappointing to have a few people every day taking off the mask whenever they could. I see it as a lack of respect for their colleagues, a kind of “Fuck you, I don’t care about anyone else, I want to feel good even if I can infect you.” This sometimes made the atmosphere on the set tense, but that’s it. I felt relieved when the shooting ended, and we were all healthy.”
“What is obscene and how do we define it? We are used to acts which are much more obscene, in a way, than small acts like the one that set off the uproar we see in the film.
“This was my idea — to clash these two types of obscenity, and to see that the one so-called obscenity in the porn video is nothing compared with what is around us, but that we don’t pay attention to.
“The film tells a contemporary story, a small one, a little story. If history and politics are part of the film, that is because the story itself has a deeper meaning if we see it in a historical, societal and political context.
“Obscenity is the theme of this film and the viewers are constantly invited to compare the so- called obscenity of a banal amateur porn video with the obscenity around us and the obscenity we can find in recent history, whose traces are all around. So, the viewers should make this montage operation. Georges Didi Huberman wrote something very important regarding montage and it could apply to our film as well:
“Le montage sera précisément l’une des réponses fondamentales à ce problème de construction de l’historicité. Parce qu’il n’est pas orienté simplement, le montage échappe aux théologies, rend visibles les survivances, les anachronismes, les rencontres de temporalités contradictoires qui affectent chaque objet, chaque événement, chaque personne, chaque geste. Alors, l’historien renonce à raconter ‘une histoire’ mais, ce faisant, il réussit à montrer que l’histoire ne va pas sans toutes les compléxités du temps, toutes les strates de l’archéologie, tous les pointillés du destin.” *
* “Montage will be precisely one of the fundamental responses to this problem of constructing historicity. Because it is not oriented towards simplicity, Montage escapes theologies, and has the power to make visible the legacies, anachronisms, contradictory intersections of temporalities that affect each object, each event, each person, each movement. Thus, the historian renounces telling ‘a story’, but in doing so, succeeds in showing that history cannot be, without all of the complexities of time, all the archaeological strata, all of the perforated fragments of destiny.”
This week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced shortlists in 10 categories for next year’s Oscars (the ceremony is March 27), including Documentary Feature and International Feature Film. We have a number of these films in or soon to be in theaters, including the double nominee, animated documentary/drama “Flee;” “Compartment No. 6,” the Finnish romantic drama set on a train travelling above the Arctic Circle; Asghar Farhadi’s latest, “A Hero;” the melancholy Japanese masterpiece “Drive My Car;” and the Norwegian romantic comedy “The Worst Person in the World.” We also have a couple of the shortlisted films available on Laemmle Virtual Cinema, the stunning portrait of Chinese society “Ascension” and Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir’s mesmerising “Faya Dayi.” From the Academy:
Fifteen films will advance to the next round of voting in the International Feature Film category for the 94th Academy Awards. Films from 92 countries were eligible in the category.Academy members from all branches were invited to participate in the preliminary round of voting and must have met a minimum viewing requirement to be eligible to vote in the category.In the nominations round, Academy members from all branches are invited to opt in to participate and must view all 15 shortlisted films to vote.The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:Austria, “Great Freedom”
Bhutan, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”
Finland, “Compartment No. 6”
Germany, “I’m Your Man”
Iran, “A Hero”
Italy, “The Hand of God”
Japan, “Drive My Car”
Mexico, “Prayers for the Stolen”
Norway, “The Worst Person in the World”
Panama, “Plaza Catedral”
Spain, “The Good Boss”
Fifteen films will advance in the Documentary Feature category for the 94th Academy Awards. One hundred thirty-eight films were eligible in the category. Members of the Documentary Branch vote to determine the shortlist and the nominees.
The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:
“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”
“The First Wave”
“In the Same Breath”
“Simple as Water”
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
“The Velvet Underground”
“Writing with Fire”
the French/Tunisian documentary SHE HAD A DREAM.
The International Documentary Association just announced the nominees for its 37th annual awards, and we’re screening or soon to screen almost a dozen from this cinematic treasure trove:
FAYA DAYI is a triple nominee for Best Feature, Director and Cinematography and is available on Laemmle Virtual Cinema.
NOT GOING QUIETLY also garnered three nominations: Best Feature, Director and Writing. It, too, is on LVC.
We open the animated FLEE (Best Feature and Director) in January.
We have Best Feature nominee WOJNAROWICZ: F**K YOU F*GGOT F**KER now on Laemmle Virtual Cinema.
We open Best Feature nominee WRITING WITH FIRE on November 26 at the Royal.
Pare Lorentz Award Winner and Best Cinematography nominee THE FIRST WAVE opens this Friday at the Monica Film Center. The filmmaker will attend for Q&A’s after the 7:30 PM screening on Saturday, November 20 and after the 4:40 screening on Sunday, November 21.
Best Cinematography nominee ASCENSION is available now on LVC.
Best Music Documentary Nominee LYDIA LUNCH is now on LVC.
We open Best Editing Nominee PROCESSION this Friday at our Glendale theater.
Finally, we open ABC News VideoSource Award Nominee LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES November 26 at the Monica Film Center.
The new documentary UNAPOLOGETIC, opening September 3 at the Monica Film Center and on the Laemmle Virtual Platform, captures a tense and polarizing moment in Chicago’s fight for the livelihood of its Black residents. The film follows Janaé and Bella, two young abolitionist organizers, as they work within the Movement for Black Lives to seek justice for Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, two young Black people killed by Chicago police. They aim to elevate a progressive platform for criminal justice to a police board led by Lori Lightfoot and a complicit city administration, while also elevating leadership by women and femmes. Laemmle Theatres opens UNAPOLOGETIC Friday, September 3 at the Monica Film Center and on the Laemmle Virtual platform.
UNAPOLOGETIC subject Bella Bahhs and director Ashley O’Shay will participate in Q&As at the Monica Film Center after the 7:40 screening on Friday, September 3 and after the 1 and 7:40 PM screenings on Saturday, September 4.
What follows is Ms. O’Shay’s artistic statement:
“In the winter of 2012, Rekia Boyd was just getting started in life. Her friends describe her as someone prone to smiles and laughter. She dotted her i’s with hearts, was a big Drake fan, and expressed herself freely on Facebook while trying to figure out her relationship status. In the winter of 2012, I was also just getting started. I was in my first year at Northwestern University’s film program and was one of less than ten Black people in my class. A slew of racist campus events caused me to feel further isolated and pushed me to begin speaking out about how racism affected my everyday. Slowly but surely, I began integrating these realizations into my art.
“In March of that same year, Rekia was hanging out with her friends near her home when she was killed by a stray bullet. It took three years for the police officer who shot her to be brought to court, and after years of waiting for justice, it was deemed a mistrial. It seemed that he would walk away without being held accountable.
“Three years later, people of all ages from neighborhoods throughout Chicago came together to organize around their frustration. With nothing but a borrowed camera and monopod in hand, I joined the hundreds descending upon Chicago Police Headquarters to demand justice. The energy was electrifying. Black women on bullhorns stood in front of crowds leading the space. For the first time, I experienced a different narrative unfolding in the enduring struggle for Black freedom – one led by Black feminist voices. I couldn’t help but see myself in them.
“Shortly after, I began to document two of these voices: Janaé Bonsu, a 24-year-old pursuing her PhD in social work while also rising the ranks of a national activist organization; and Bella Bahhs, a 22-year-old “rap-tivist” from the Westside of Chicago whose artistry and activism seek to heal women harmed by intergenerational effects of incarceration – women like herself. Over the course of two and a half years, we watch as these women grapple not only with what it means to lead a mass movement, but also to enter early adulthood as Black, queer women.
“I have been a filmmaker for nine years now; Unapologetic is my feature film directorial debut. Five years after beginning production, we have completed the film. While this documentation was certainly important at the time of filming, it proves even more essential now, especially in light of the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. As Lori Lightfoot has become the first Black, openly-queer mayor of Chicago, mainstream media has championed her as a symbol of progressive growth. However, the current reality in the city counters that. After years of intentional work, organizers are working to educate the community around abolishing and divesting from policing, despite a new mayor bolstered by representative politics. Unapologetic intentionally centers the narratives of the Black queer feminist organizers who brought forth the progressive platform that set the stage for Chicago’s historic shift in leadership.
“I have always known and felt the presence of Black resistance in my life. However, the strong feminine leadership in the Chicago movement caused me to question where my history had been placed. How might my world have been different if I saw a young PhD student or a rapper that looked like me organizing a mass movement? Unapologetic has given me an opportunity to discover more about myself through this legacy of resistance, and take a more active role in it.
“What does one usually require of a Black movement leader? Certainly not femme. Certainly not queer. Certainly not flawed, or quick to anger, or overly opinionated. By focusing on this refreshing counter narrative within the Movement for Black Lives, I wanted to recognize this heroic and thankless work, catalyzing empathy, understanding, and hope in all viewers at such a critical time for Black lives.” — Ashley O’Shay
Roy Andersson is one of the world’s most eminent living film directors, and the main subject of Being a Human Person. This maverick Swedish auteur’s work has been celebrated at all of the world’s major film festivals, from his 1970 debut A Swedish Love Story, which picked up four prizes at Berlin, through to Songs from the Second Floor, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. His final two films (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence and About Endlessness) both premiered in Venice, winning the Golden Lion in 2014 and Silver Lion in 2019, respectively.
At 76 years of age, Andersson was about to complete his final film, About Endlessness. With the end of his career in sight, the central thematic concerns of his work – vulnerability, insecurity and mortality – spilled over into his creative process, blurring the line between the personal and the professional. In documenting this process, Fred Scott’s Being a Human Person becomes a powerful meditation on the relationship between art and artist, and a heartbreakingly honest portrait of one of the most startlingly original and unremittingly humane directors in world cinema. Laemmle Theatres opens Being a Human Person on our virtual platform beginning this Friday, July 30. About Endlessness is available now.
The British production company Archer’s Mark wrote the following about the documentary:
There are some filmmakers whose style is so unique, they can announce themselves in a scene. Lynch, Spielberg, Welles, Malick. They have such intense and personal vision, such specificity of time, place and cultural context – that we only need to spend a minute in their world to recognise their signature. And then there is Roy Andersson. A director who possesses a style of visual storytelling that allows his work to be known in a single frame.* Because Roy – in a world where the hyperbolic use of such a phrase is all too commonplace – is truly one of a kind, for many reasons.
Each of his films takes an average of five years to make. His crew builds every set; films it; and then destroys it. He uses only fixed, long shots with no close-ups or edits. Each film is made up of an average of 40 intricate, painterly tableaux. He only casts non-professional actors. Roy’s intricate in-camera trickery employs surgical craftsmanship that is meticulous to the point of madness… And all of this takes place on the two floors below Roy’s apartment in an unassuming townhouse in central Stockholm – also known as the legendary Studio 24.
In short, Roy’s way is the antithesis of every film production of the last 50 years. It has won him garlands at the biggest festivals in the world – Cannes, Berlin, Venice – and the adulation of visionary directors like Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
In an age of the franchise, and a proliferation of cookie-cutter storytelling, Roy is quite simply the last of his kind. And now, at 76 years of age, he is about to present his last film to the world. That film – About Endlessness – will mark the end of a major chapter in cinema. For when Roy stops making films, they will simply never be made in this way again.
Set across a three year time period, Being a Human Person charts the arduous and unsettled arc of production of what Roy lovingly terms his “final effort”. Shot through with Roy’s candour, humour and insistence on capturing the process in all its truthfulness – even as he comes to terms with his own, increasingly fragile, mortality – it also becomes a meditation on the legacy of a master storyteller as he calls time on his career.
*From The Living Paintings of Roy Andersson by Film Qualia (YouTube)