Monday, May 31, 2010

May. It's a Wrap

We hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Or if you live outside the US, a wonderful weekend of other sorts.

After a rough April, May felt like a big improvement. We hope you thought so too. Here are some highlights from the month that was in case you missed anything or if you're a brand new reader (welcome!)

Netflix Instant Watch Addiction - Nathaniel 'plugs in and gets off'...not literally!
Monologue - This monday series recharged its batteries with stellar moments from Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion and Looking For Mr Goodbar
Take Three: Veronica Cartwright Craig's new series debuts
Liz Taylor & BUtterfield 8 -"Mad Men @ the Movies" returned as we try to catch up before the season 4 premiere in July. Besides... I always love thinking about La Liz
Newsweek vs. Gay Actors in which Nathaniel and a few (but not enough) righteous celebrities get pissed off

Oz-Mania Jose looks at projects aiming to take us Over the Rainbow
Port of Call: ZOO Orleans Herzog brings out the animal(s) in Cage
Cate, Posterized Cate Blanchett as lead. Do you prefer "support"?
Pedro & Antonio | Madonna & Me a 1990/1991 flashback
Foreign Auteurs Top Ten According to Oscar that is. How familiar are you with the filmographies of Buñuel, de Sica and Fellini?

Coming in June: More info about the summer season of TFE here.

Heroics and Dastardly Deeds, Circa 2009

I should be finished wrapping up the unfortunately delayed FiLM BiTCH Awards for 2009 in the next few days. (This past spring roughed me up... ouch. Coming back to life now). But while I knock off the rest of the categories backstage enjoy the finalized nominations for Best Cameos/Limited Roles (with gold medals for Carrie Preston and Robert Duvall) and Best Hero, Best Villain.

Which do-gooder would you call on if you needed rescue and which villains do you most love to hate?

What's Your Favorite Studio Logo?

Do you even have one?

I have a fondness for Columbia's due to that weird rumor that the modern incarnation was based on Annette Bening. But my favorite is maybe Universal. I love watching the the studio name revolve around the planet. In general I dig studio logos and get a kick out of seeing them shift ever so slightly with changes in visual style and technology over the years.


Oscar's Foreign Directors Update

Last week's tuesday top ten has been expanded and revised a bit to be a top dozen. Oscar's Favorite Foreign Language Film Auteurs. I'm still not sure about the order between a few of them in the middle of the pack. The question of how to quantify has no easy answer when you're dealing with whole filmographies, honorary prizes, and eligibility issues. But I primarily gave it another once over because I'd somehow forgotten one master from Poland, Andrzej Wajda (pictured left) who was presented with an Honorary Oscar, from two time winner Her Awesomeness Jane Fonda, back in March 2000).

If you missed the post, please check it out. I hope it's inspired you to rent a film or three. One of the great rewards of Oscar obsessiveness is discovering past treasures. If you're not doing that, you're doin' it wrong!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Take Three: Ben Foster

Craig here with the second Take Three, where I look at a different character/supporting actor's work through three of their most notable films.

This week: Ben Foster

Take One
: Stranger in a strange town

In watching the three films for this post there was something about seeing Ben Foster on screen that, at first, I couldn't put my finger on. It struck me particularly during 30 Days of Night that he kept reminding me of another, older actor. If you were take a look at a Ben Foster performance (in any of the three films mentioned here, and others besides) then watch Brad Dourif in any one of his countless roles, similarities in mannerism, appearance and acting style become apparent; at a push you might mistake them for being related. Dourif is one of the quintessential character actors (and a likely future candidate for this series) and if there's a career groove or performance style evident so far in Foster's work it's comparable to Dourif's. Both have often taken on roles exploring unsavoury aspects of human existence, often appearing as shifty or nervy characters, and neither have shied away from darker material; and both have a knack for wanton genre-hopping, too (sci-fi, western, cultish drama etc). And then there's always the polarising opinions they inspire in many folk. To me, they're different (generational) sides of the same coin, grafting away in careers where playing snivelling losers is an art and perfecting the intense oddball is the strict order of the day.

Hanging with vampires: Ben Foster in 30 Days of Night

Had 30 Days been made twenty years ago I'd bet that Dourif would've been first choice to play the Stranger - a bedraggled, rotten-toothed wanderer - looking as if he hadn't slept for 60 days of night - who stumbles into the isolated town of Barrow, Alaska to forewarn the residents left behind of the impending approach of a particularly grisly gang of vampires ("board the windahs, try ta hide... they're comin'"). Foster's role is brief, a mere catalyst as character. He enters the film early but doesn't live to see the carnage he foretells: he gets in, chews his lines with degraded glee, then gets out. And he was the most interesting character in the film. His garbled Southern-tinged snarling (sounding somewhat like Elaine Stritch, if Elaine Stritch were a vampiric bag lady from Mississippi) whilst goading Josh Hartnett and Melissa George from a prison cell, provides some of the film's best moments - outside of the actual moments of carnage foretold. He's clearly relishing playing it low-down and creepy and upsetting the homely family apple cart ("Mr. and Mrs. Sheriff... so sweet, so... helpless... against what is comin'"). This type of role is a perfect fit for a character actor looking to expand his craft into new genres. Foster gets to have fun with it and - in true character actor style - does more with his limited screen time than the rest of the cast (save for George) do over the whole film.

Take Two: Low-down dirty dog

Alpha Dog may have been a male-centric Thirteen or a Bully just with more tattoos - and was somewhat drunk on the already tired and over-explored Larry Clarkisms of teenage ennui - but it was memorable for one good performance. Foster's Nazi-fixated meth-head (what is it about on-the-rise young actors playing Nazi skinheads?: Ryan Gosling in The Believer, Edward Norton in American History X and Foster here have all donned tatts and brandished bats early on in their careers) who goes ape over the kidnap of his brother by a gaggle of gangster wannabes, and spends the film attempting to exact revenge. Whenever he's on screen the film becomes charged with a daftly entertaining force: Foster's Jake Mazursky is the sole reason to watch the film.

His violent explosions and verbal diatribes - full of maniacal facial expressions, bulging eyes and nervy tics - are truly ridiculous but keep the film from being too nonchalantly cool for its own sake. It's like Blue Velvet's Frank Booth had a son, even more comically insane then he, who went immediately crazy upon vacating the womb and hasn't stopped ranting and raving since. His rage finds multiple outlets, as when he channels Bruce Lee and lays elaborate waste to a stoner gathering or showers a phone receiver with one of many verbal anger barrages. He's the ultimate party-pooper too - as witnessed in the scene where he literally shits on someone else's patch. Nowhere else in the film is any other actor remotely as watchable - or as preposterously transfixing - as Foster is. This kind of OTT showboating has served Nicolas Cage well (especially recently in Bad Lieutenant) and it never hurt Gary Oldman's career, so Foster deserves credit for bringing much-needed entertainment to the film. He cuts through the coolness on display and makes mockery of all the film's hip posing. And the good thing is that he rarely seems to draw attention to himself in his endeavours. Shame he's such a hateful figure - but then that's partly why he seems to be having so much fun with the role.

Take Three: just a small-town dude with a big city attitude...

If many folk saw him as someone who wildly overacted, a mouthy firebrand who tore large strips out of his role, along with the other characters, in Alpha Dog, then he added more fuel to the fire with his fiercely committed performance as Russell Crowe's ruthless right-hand man Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma - a role that would've surely gained a more established, or at least more visible, actor a supporting Oscar nod. Again aggressively reaching for the ultimate maniac, he was able to match the main pairs' testosterone-heavy intensity whilst still maintaining an assured, and better-managed, sense of his character's narrative arc: he showed barely glimpsed nuggets of compassion and admiration which his itchy trigger-finger wouldn't, ultimately, let fully flourish; he couldn't be faulted for sticking to his guns. And he was the least "actorish" of the stars in the film. If you're positioned between Crowe and Christian Bale (and in a western no less - the shoutiest and manliest of all manly genres), the environment will be positively thick with the (desert) air of thespian grandstanding. Whilst Crowe and Bale were busy battling it out for leading man status, Foster held his own, upped his game ever-so-slightly and stole the film away from under both their dust-filled noses, giving the most appreciable performance of the film - nowhere more apparent than when Prince finally lets his guard down.

Throughout Yuma he rides the trails, steals and kills for, and with, Crowe's Ben Wade; Charlie Prince has lived only for serving him. His final scene with Crowe - and here be spoilers - where Wade reneges on his previous intention to escape his fateful train journey and effectively switch sides, has consequences for Prince after he guns Bale's Dan Evans down; Wade retaliates in kind and shoots Prince in the back. The look in his eyes as Wade fires a second bullet - this time tellingly at close range, to the chest - speaks volumes about honour and betrayal (maybe the most perceptive instance in a film which is all about such things). Prince is on the cusp of tears, his face opened up from its scarred grimace for the first and only time during the film, but Wade, perhaps aware of Prince's façade slipping, delivers a second, fatal bullet before any man-tears start. This is what a lifetime's devotion results in - and it's indelibly etched in Foster's eyes. It's a great moment of riveting acting in miniature - not a minute too late, and in a few brief seconds, it manages to reach back over the preceding film and retroactively suggests more to Prince than what was at first apparent. It's a signature moment in his most resounding performance to date.

Cowboy style: Foster trying to make the 3:10 to Yuma

With small or supporting roles in films such as The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, 11:14, Hostage, Big Trouble, The Punisher and Northfork - not to mention looking like a member of some weird angelic boyband in The X-Men: The Last Stand - he's mining a path through a workmanlike filmography, gaining momentum (and Pandorum) along the way. It's open to question whether he'll grab the eye of big casting agents some time soon - he hasn't as yet had the mid-career breakout role like, say, Jeremy Renner, although he received much acclaim for his role in The Messenger last year - but in the meantime trading in the kinds of roles that the likes of Brad Dourif made so effortlessly his own is no bad thing indeed. It points to longevity in his career and to more juicy, snivelling, and, more importantly, solidly-realised character parts for the folk who like to champion him to enjoy.

Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

His management revealed his battle with cancer just last year and yesterday 74 year-old long-time film star Dennis Hopper passed away. His cultural legacy is most closely fused with the counter culture sensation Easy Rider (1969) which he directed, wrote and starred in. But it stretches back much further than that and was, at least at the start, quite a case of beginner's luck. When three of your first four movies are titles as major or enduring as Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) than things are off to quite a good start no matter how you define such things.

After those promising early years, things got choppy. Addictions and reportedly volatile on set behavior may have derailed major movie stardom but his bad boy reputation, whatever the personal and professional costs, surely added to his iconoclast mystique.

In the end he's left quite a legacy to consider. Decades from now, if you'll excuse the pun, his bumpy journey through the cinema is going to look like an easy ride. So many classics pepper his filmography that his career looks quite consistently charmed once its visibly stretched over five decades of cinema: 1950s, Rebel and Giant; 1960s, Easy Rider and Cool Hand Luke; 1970s, Apocalypse Now; 1980s, Blue Velvet; 1990s, Speed. Many great actors never come close to lining up that many seminal films. And that's just the cream of the crop.

Dennis, Natalie and Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

The last Hopper performance I personally saw was in the undervalued Elegy (2008) in which he plays Ben Kingsley's dying confidante. I attended that junket, in fact, though I don't attend many. I still remember how excited I was awaiting his response to a question about which films he considered most important if you were teaching film history. After all, hadn't he lived film history himself? He cited Citizen Kane, Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The 400 Blows and anything by Akira Kurosawa. When it came time to talk current directors he wanted to work with it was Oliver Stone and Woody Allen. The answer seemed, to these ears at least, roughly twenty years late. But it also weirdly coincided, chronologically speaking, with Hopper's last widely celebrated triumph, two of them to be exact: the deranged addict of Blue Velvet and the drunk assistant coach in Hoosiers (for which he received his only acting nomination. His other Oscar bid was for writing Easy Rider). Both of those films arrived in 1986 when Oliver Stone's Platoon and Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters were the top contenders for Hollywood's gold statue.

<--- Dennis with Natalie Wood in 1956

But who am I to judge the timeliness of a response? Especially when there are so many decades of his work to wade through. I myself tend to get trapped in a much earlier decade when I think of Hopper. I always think of Rebel first -- though his role was minor -- because it's one of my all time favorites and because the title could well have been coopted for Hopper himself. That classic captured so many young talents memorably, providing us with early livewire peeks at their adult sized movie charisma. Four members of the famous cast died tragically: James Dean in a car crash in 1955, Nick Adams overdosed in 1968; Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976; and Natalie Wood drowned in 1981. Dennis Hopper outlived them all, breaking that mythical "Rebel Curse" and providing intermittent rewards to moviegoing audiences for 55 more years after '55.

He was acting until the end. He has two unseen film in the cans. One is but a voice role but in the other, the comedy The Last Film Festival (2010), he plays a producer. It's one of the only major showbiz roles he had yet to play in real life after hundreds of acting gigs, and a good handful as a writer/director.

Revised Experience: Kissing Jake Gyllenhaal

I saw Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time on Friday. Two days later I remember virtually nothing save Jake's sandy contours and... uh...uh... well, he pretty!

"don't push your luck"

I do remember two other things: first, the noticeable video gaming levels (helpfully divided into location chapters onscreen) and second, Gemma Arterton's impossibly puffed up lips. While no one will ever challenge Angelina Jolie for authentic inflated labial beauty, Gemma's get a ton of screentime and when the very caucasion couple actually lip-locked in the middle of a mystical Arabian sandstorm, there was scattered giggling in the theater.

Kissing Jake Gyllenhaal is almost never a laughing matter (people are more likely to cry from it. Read on) but the movie had given Gemma so many "OMG!!! I'm almost kissing Jake Gyllenhaal" false alarms that it played like those countdown moments in bad thrillers where you see the bomb counter at 10 seconds and a whole minute of screen time later it's suddenly 3-2-1 dramatic. Movie time is infinitely flexible so why shouldn't Gemma and Jake stop to make out while Ben Kingsley is about to lay waste to the entire world. Kingsley is phoning it in anyway. He's not exactly in a rush to complete his dastardly mission.

What follows is the classic TFE post from 2007, touched up a little. Since this was first published Jake's lips have really slowed down. In the past 3 years he's only kissed Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and now Gemma.

Jack Twist hasn't had a great couple of years onscreen. Let's kiss him better.

Fans are so fickle. The internet's collective 2006 boyfriend often gets a cold shoulder now. In 2007 he starred in two underperforming movies (the excellent Zodiac and the political drama Rendition) causing haters to question his bankability. He hasn't been seen much since --onscreen at least -- paparazzi pics aside. Pop culture cheaters went out seeking new objects of lust. Meanwhile, Jake grew a beard despite the rumors that that was entirely redundant.

Yet, through all of this, he remains entirely kissable.

We should all still love him. For what male movie star is as soft, cuddly and gorgeous? You may have only thought about kissing Jake Gyllenhaal while you were sitting in a movie theater (Jena Malone plays your proxy to the right) but you can kiss this movie star anywhere and in many different ways.

Consider the abundant photographic evidence. Jena enthusiastically demonstrates...

She suggests brazenly planting one on him outside your high school or at lame parties. He's shy at first but Jena guarantees he warms up in the bedroom.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who must be a Gyllenhaalic herself (unless my count is wrong she has shared the most screen liplocks with the man himself), concurs:

Lord knows why she starts crying once she gets Jake naked.

...from happiness?

But yeah, he does have that effect on people.

(It's because of Jake that he's like this. He's nothing... he's nowhere)

But, consequences be damned, Gyllenhaal must be kissed: violently, tenderly, with guilt or lust... it hardly matters. It must be done.

Even if you don't feel that way about Jake (what's wrong with you?), it's so easy to love him. Like a son... like a brother. You don't even have to come to him. He'll plant one on you.

I never thought I'd say this but Emmy Rossum and Gemma Arterton may well be the smartest human beings on earth. If the world is ending... by all means grab Mr. Gyllenhaal and make out in the glow of a fire or magical sand column. It's your last chance!!!

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Add to Google*
previously on Kissing: Isabelle Huppert "do not defile it with cliché", When George Met Mary It's a Wonderful Life, Marilyn Monroe "just you... nobody else but you", Volver 47 kisses in the first 15 minutes alone

previous "Gyllenhaalic" classics: Jack Twist Monologue * A History of ... Gyllenhaal * Totally Gratuitous Jake Gyllenhaal *

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day of Rest (with Bruce Willis and Friend)


Bruce and I both need to rest. It's a holiday weekend. Our cats don't make sleeping very easy, though. Why must they always need food? It's called fasting, kitten, look into it.

These image are from Striking Distance (1993) which is one of those movies too mediocre for anyone to remember it ever existed. I wonder if SJP or Bruce even remember that they made it? I didn't remember that they made it! This is the only movie I know of where a cat wakes up the lead character in a realistic way. Yes, my cat sometimes wakes me up like this... though usually he employs the paw rather than the tongue. Either way: highly annoying.

Cats on the brain this morning since my fuzzy one is sick again (maybe I should give How to Train Your Dragon another cheer-me-up visit). The second his medicine runs out, illness returns. More vet bill$, food experimentation (to see if it's allergies) and tests coming.

Monty and I are sad today and we need some cuddle time.

Craig will be in with a "Take Three" column tomorrow (it's not a holiday weekend for the Brits -- oh wait, it is. Oops) and I'll be back on Sunday or Monday with a bunch of Oscar/Awardage stuff. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Metaphysical Can of Worms

"I don't see how I could go on living my life
the way I've lived it before"

[Great Moments In Screen Bitchery #17: Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich]

Deep Link: Aliens, Spidey, La Lohan and More

The Big Picture that Marc Webb Spider-Man reboot has narrowed the candidates down. I'm still not excited about a redo but I'm totally thumbs up on the idea of either Jamie Bell or Andrew Garfield... though it's weird to hear them referred to as "unknowns", you know? Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro), Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) and Frank Dillane (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) are also being considered.
Cracked "Which awful redhead stereotype are you?" Starring Lindsay Lohan"time bomb", Julianne Moore "sex fiend" and others. Poor gingers!

MTV Movies Logan's Run gets a new director in Erik Rinsch. It's so sad to me that the studio had issues with handing Alien 5 over to him. That's what that entire franchise thrived on... putting fresh visionary directors on the map before they were A list: Scott, Fincher, Cameron. If the Aliens franchise is about anything beyond the Ripley badassery and the acid blood beasties, that's what it's about. It's like the third most important element of that franchise. When you have the same story every time, you have to add the auteurial shakes up or you have nothing.
NY Mag sword and sandal epics and the evolution of Abs within them. Funny stuff
Vanity Fair has 30 portraits and profiles of Tony nominees for this past theater season including familiar faces like Jude Law.
Playbill Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch offered the CZJ and Lansbury roles in A Little Night Music on Broadway? ohmygodohmygod. Not that either of them would ever accept a "replacment cast" situation but if this happens a ticket MUST have my name on it.
Mental Floss '9 Copyrights Given to Charity.' Interesting list. I had no idea that Peter Pan was copyright free now. You'd think there'd be a sudden influx of Pan movies.
Just Jared more pics from the set of Mildred Pierce: Kate Winslet and Evan Rachel Wood
Towleroad Madonna gets vampiric to sell sunglasses. It's very Deneuve/Hunger

Finally, the first pics of LL as LL have surfaced. Yes the alliterative Lohan/Lovelace porno biopic Inferno is coming your way... eventually. Oh No They Didn't posted the pics from photographer Tyler Shields who seems to have already removed them from his own website though there's still a lot of fun stuff there including a shoot with Glee's Jayma Mays, Zachary Quinto and plentiful rude portraits of Young Hollywood.

I'd love for Lohan to be able to pull this off but acting is like anything else. If you aren't committed to it, how are you going to get great at it?

Sex & The City and "The Terrible Twos"

Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. "Sex & The City," the ginormously popular HBO sitcom understood this. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), the heroine of the whole enterprise, was the worst offender. She bought shoes when she needed to pay rent. She cheated on her boyfriends. She broadcast her business to the world when she would have been better off keeping her mouth sh -- oh, uh, yes, job hazard as a sex and relationship columnist. Mr. Big (Chris Noth) was also skilled in the art of self sabotage, continually pushing his perfect girl (Carrie, duh!) away when she needed to be pulled close. He perfected this dynamic in the first movie's act one climax by leaving her at the altar. Ouch. Two year old spoiler alert: They got back together and married in the end.

Now the Fab Four (Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte) are back. They've mostly settled down so Sex and the City 2 will pick up the baton and practice the fine art of self sabotage on itself.

Read the rest at Towleroad

...and if you're seeing it this weekend, please share your thoughts. I'm curious to know how you responded.

First and Last, Train Tracks

the first image after the opening credits... and the last before "the end" card

Highlight for the first and last lines of dialogue if you need help.
first line: "Okay, there are two things I remember about my childhood..."
last line "I told him it was __________[title of movie]"

Can you guess the movie?

Highlight for the answer if you're stumped: WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
for all previous puzzles, hit the label below

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Iron Baby... and Other Babies

Have you seen this Iron Baby trailer? Kids these days. They got tech skills in diapers.

Confession: I went to see Babies last weekend while I was in Boston. My girl Amy suggested it.

Amy and me in NYC --->

We tried not to weep copiously into our popcorn bucket since we are both barren through circumstance (i.e. single or gay). Babies wasn't exactly a documentary so much as four parallel home movies without commentary other than perhaps what you're projecting on to it. I have nothing to add to the New Yorker's review which is brill. This moment David Denby singles out had us roaring:
I detected only one satirical sally: The San Francisco baby, Hattie, and her mother attend some sort of New Age group-parenting session. The mothers, raising their arms in supplication, sing a ghastly hymn to the earth, at which point Hattie heads for the door.
Boy did Hattie want out of the room! Boston audiences approved.

Our other favorite shared bit in the movie was the Japanese baby Mari's absolute hissy fit whenever she so much as looked at the pieces of a peg and hole game. So so funny... a total drama queen in training. Have any of you seen it yet? It's already one of the most successful docs ever. But maybe you'll avoid it like the plague. The Boyfriend mock screamed when the trailer played in front of a movie some months ago. Dramatically placed title cards "BABIES... ARE... COMING" will sound like a threat to the child averse.

When Amy and I exited the theater we spontaneously began quoting Holly Hunter by way of Raising Arizona.
You go right back up there and get me a toddler.
I need a baby, Hi. They got more than they can handle.
I want that baby, Hi.
Holly Hunter is magic. The End.

Numbers Numbers Numbers

I can't quite share the box office obsession that most of the web indulges in. What's on any given screen is way more interesting than how many people are staring at it. But sometimes it's fun to see the info, especially a whole bunch of it at once.

Anyway. This infographic had so many details, I thought I'd share...

Film industry by the numbers
Via: Online MBA

I used to love the sidebars in Premiere and Entertainment Weekly that covered things like this back when they made things called magazines on something called... what's that word again... paper!

The number I find most depressing* here is the number of screens versus the number of theaters. I'd do anything to have the giant screens back. Mr. Theater Owners, Tear Down Those Walls! Bring the big screens back. The constant inflation of ticket prices is bad enough, so the screens need to be worth it. Notice in that chart how cheap it is to see movies and then compare that to other entertainments. Done? Now, notice how much more likely people are to indulge in the cheaper entertainment. This is surely why so many people actually have television as their only form of entertainment. Very cheap. It is possible to price yourself out of relevancy. Broadway did that long ago. Must the movies be next?

* I amend: The 'Michael Bay as Hollywood's top earner' factoid takes that prize.

Gotta Dance! More Musicals Please. And Not Just From Bollywood.

I've been a teensy bit Hrithik Roshan obsessed since seeing Kites. I didn't think much of the movie itself (my review) but its shorter, speedier fraternal twin Kites: The Remix opens this weekend so Roshan is still swiveling around in my brain. The Movie Report has a "decade of dance" with the Bollywood god in celebration. Great clips chosen though this only makes me question the wisdom of giving the man only one dance number in Kites* And near the beginning of the film, too. That's called shooting yourself in the foot. Shooting yourself in the fleet of foot.

"Dhoom Again" from Dhoom: 2 (2006).

I've been trying to get some exercize in (fail!) but now I need to know if there are any Bollywood workout tapes. Ha ha. So western of me to ask. But those bodies! Y'all gave me some great tips on Bollywood films to check out a few months ago and I'm going to try to do a short Bollywood series at the end of the summer.

Seeing all those clips in a row at The Movie Report once again makes me long for Hollywood to get back into the musical genre with some real annual commitment. I know Nine was a major flop (with that budget. yikes) but there are so many valuable properties they could do. Get to it already, businees executives! Remember how much Hairspray and Dreamgirls and Chicago made? I'll help you: Lots! Remember how much Sweeney Todd and Rent made? I'll help you: not as much but not too shabby considering their respective limitations.

I feel like there's nothing in the pipeline... We never hear any progress on Wicked. I wake up each morning hoping to read that Hugh Jackman or Anne Hathaway are about to start laying down tracks for some new project.

is fun but it's not enough. I need big screen song and dance. Who is with me?

*Apparently Hrithik's dance number in Kites: The Remix has been left on the cutting room floor. Yet more proof that Brett Ratner is a stupid stupid man.

First & Last, "Once Upon a Time..."

the first image from a classic movie

and the last line of dialogue
woman on deck of boat: voilà
man: merci beaucoup
No, it's not a French movie.

Can you guess the movie?

Highlight for the answer: Yes, it's the Audrey Hepburn romance SABRINA

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

DVDs: Flying Turtles, Star Packages, Horny Vampires and Apocalyptic Survivors

It's DVD time. Here's a sampling of the new titles that came out in the past two weeks. And here's where you can boss me around and force me to write about one of them like you did with An Education, Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans, Doctor Zhivago (pending) and Fantastic Mr Fox. If you want everyone to vote your way, make your case in the comments.
  • Dear John
    In which Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum romance me ... er each other! I meant each other! You can't fault me for fantasizing, can you?
  • Extraordinary Measures
    In which Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser prove that they're very much still alive and available for casting should you require their services. Do you require their services?
  • Gamera, The Giant Monster
    In which the giant turtle first takes flight. I remember loving this one on TV as a wee tyke but I'm not sure if it's the same one since there were quite a lot of those Japanese monster movies syndicated for television

  • Invictus
    In which Clint Eastwood teaches us about racial harmony, rugby and speech-making.
  • The Messenger
    In which Oren Moverman takes control after years of working on interesting movies as a screenwriter (I'm Not There, Jesus's Son)
  • The Road
    In which our beloved Viggo plays Man who tries to keep Boy alive in this ultra bleak post-apocalyptic film based on the absurdly great novel by Cormac McCarthy. Read it immediately if you haven't. One of my ten favorite books of all time.
  • The Spy Next Door
    In which something or other that's comical and action-packed happens to Jackie Chan. You know how he do.
  • True Blood: The Complete Second Season
    In which Sookie, Bill, and Eric rescue the vampire mythology from Twilight's sparkly whiny angst and return it to the land of danger and eroticism and perversity. In short: exactly where it belongs.
  • Valentine's Day
    In which CAA throw a huge party with all their repped talent, films it, and makes major bank.
What'll it be for you in your home theater? What'll it be for me?

you chose THE ROAD. Here's the write up.

A New Link State of Mind

Eddie on Film is hosting a John Williams blog-a-thon. That man just doesn't get enough attention you know obviously I'm joking a few pieces are already up. More to come
ONTD hilarious bit on public reaction to celebrity sightings. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal
Towleroad watch Sex & The City 2 in 60 seconds. Teehee
CHUD '50 Cent about to win Oscar' through the weight loss gimmick!
Arts Beat fans ask The Lovely Laura Linney questions. Our very own par3182 gets one in. Yes, that's right. I'm claiming TFE readers / frequent commenters as my own. You are all mine mwahhh haha ha ha

The L Magazine how have I never heard of this Liza Minnelli/Vincent Minnelli movie A Matter of Time (1976)? Is there a leak in my brain where I keep Liza?
Noh Way "How Carrie Got Her Groove Back." I suspect this is the most positive review of Sex & the City 2 that you'll read
The Stranger "Burkas and Birkins" I suspect this is the most negative review of Sex & the City 2 that you will read.
NY Magazine Joan Rivers doesn't hold her tongue
I feel so totally forgotten. The fucking New Yorker did this big piece on the genius of Rickles, who is brilliant but who hasn’t changed a line in fifteen years. Meanwhile, I am totally ‘old hat’ and ignored while in reality I could still wipe the floor with both Kathy [Griffin] and Sarah [Silverman].
...and sure is pushing this new documentary. I smell an Oscar nomination in January. Not for Joan Rivers exactly (she didn't direct it) but still.

An Education on the Ensemble Class

In trying to keep up with DVD promises, I've given An Education (2009) a second look. First thing I noticed the second time through was a vaguely wary expression on Carey Mulligan's face the very first time you see her. Before she has anything to be worried about.

It's as if she knows that this is not a post about how great she is!

One of the chief and actually insightful digs at the movie, from certain unconvinced parties, is that director Lone Scherfig is so enamored of Mulligan's Jenny (and yes there's plenty to be enamored of) that she passes up numerous opportunities to complicate the movie. Our relationship to the youthful arrogance of the protagonist really does need a tougher investigation. Jenny really does need to be told. [Has she been told? Tell her. Oh snap!] This is the reason I love every tiny bitter morsel from Emma Thompson as the stern headmistress. More please.

But it wasn't just Scherfig that had trouble looking away from Mulligan's star-is-born turn. How else to explain the curious little attention the film received outside of its Actress and Best Picture bids. The film has amazing costume work, smart art direction and terrific original songs. Regarding this last bit, there's zero excuse for the Academy's music branch to pass up "You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger".

The song even gets a showcase scene and is intertwined with the narrative, something they're actually supposed to be looking for when they vote. The characters even sing it in the car while driving.

But the best thing about the film is for sure the ensemble play. Scherfig makes some fine shot sequence choices to accentuate the interplay between her "clever" foursome of lovers: Jenny & David (Carey Mulligan & Peter Sarsgaard) and the highly flavorful duo of Danny & Helen (Dominic Cooper & Rosamund Pike). One early scene of the foursome in a bar offers audiences the rare opportunity to watch four actors acting simultaneously. I watched this scene four times in a row to look at each performance and they're all fully engaged. Oh the joy of medium shots!

Only after we're already made some observations about their group dynamic does the more generic cross cutting, shot / reverse shot pattern, take over (you know the pattern, it's the way 99% of movies film every single conversatzzzzzzz zzz zzz). I love how the scene begins with Helen holding bitchy court -- she theorizes that college girls might be born ugly -- but as soon as she's turned her attention's Jenny's way, "books?", Scherfig zeroes in and the blocking changes. The two men begin to flank Jenny, gradually pushing Helen right out of the frame. Scherfig sees what's happening to the group dynamic (fresh meat!) and illustrates accordingly.

One of the most interesting textural bits in the movie is how nearly every character -- not just Jenny -- swoons for any sort of flattering attention; They're all hungry flowers, leaning towards sunlight or water. Dominic Cooper excepted, as he seems very self contained.

I've already expressed my love for Pike with a Supporting Actress nomination but there are other magical things happening within the ensemble, too. Unfortunately the acting isn't always consistent. Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour, for example, both have smart moments as Jenny's eagerly gullible parents, but they swing a little too broadly at other times.

I don't know if it's that stinging late film appearance by Sally Hawkins in a pivotal role but the film makes me think of a Mike Leigh movie.

What?!? Yes, that's a bizarre reference point. Hear me out.

The character work in An Education doesn't have the depth or discipline of Leigh's standard six months worth of improv and rehearsals, and the movie absolutely doesn't have the same high art tone or deep insights. I know that. An Education just zips merrily along, charging through even its darkest moments without considering them too carefully. It's paced and styled for the multiplex, even if it never fully crossed over with mainstream audiences. But I think of Mike Leigh because his movies by their very design always feel a bit ephemeral. You're hyper aware that had his camera swung to the left or right, or left that scene earlier to follow an exiting character, a completely separate and equally interesting movie would be waiting for you on the other side.

An Education is strong enough during its best moments to make me believe or at least fantasize that there's a few movies just off to either side or behind it, should the writers, actors, and director have decided to go another way with it. On second viewing this is the order in which I'd like to see those movies.
  • The Miseducation of Helen, a biopic, in which Rosamund Pike takes center stage. Was she always this dim and devilish? How hard does she have to work to keep Danny's (Cooper) attentions and keep herself swathed in the fur and finery he provides? (I'm guessing there's been a procession of Danny types.)
  • The Art of the Steal a prequel, in which Danny (Cooper) and David (Sarsgaard) begin working together. An Education never looks closely at this relationship but if you stop to think about it for just a minute, it sure needs looking at. What is the power balance really like? Does it seesaw back and forth?
  • The Prime of Miss Stubbs in which we follow this entire school year from the exhausted well meaning perspective of Jenny's teacher (Olivia Williams) and the headmistress (Emma Thompson) becomes the defacto secondary lead.
  • Educating Graham in which we follow awkward Graham (the sympathetic Matthew Beard) as he grows into a fine writer and learns that Jenny wasn't everything. There are plenty of interesting girls in college and they're less pretentious about it.
To close I'd just like to share this Graham-related dialogue exchange that I love but had completely forgotten about. Jenny's dad has already fallen for David's con artist charm, however age inappropriate he may be, and takes the opportunity to disparage Jenny's young friend.
Jack, Jenny's Father: Better than that young man you brought home for tea.

Marjorie, her mother: [thinks the comparison is unfair] David's a lot older than Graham.

Jack: Graham could live to be 200 years old and you'll never see him swanning around with famous authors.

Graham might become a famous author for all you know!

Becoming one isn't the same as knowing one. That shows you're well connected.

Some people's fathers...

I love this tiny crumb of a suggestion that Jenny does like the age appropriate but unsophisticated Graham. She's just not into him in that way. That said she doesn't seem to enjoy the ribbing he gets from both her parents and friends. Perhaps she knows somewhere deep inside that she's not that much more extraordinary than him... she's just a little further along in her Education.

Which movie...

... do you view as a major missed opportunity? It might have been the casting, the director, the screenplay, the tone. Something was off! And do you still dream of seeing it again in some magically altered form that's more to your liking?

First and Last, "I Saw Her"

the first and last image from a classic movie

Can you guess the movie?

If you need a hint, here are the first and last lines of dialogue:
First Lines "Monsieur ______"

"It's about time you blew your horn."
Last Line
"I saw her. I know that I saw her."

Highlight for the answer if you're still stuck: LES DIABOLIQUES (1955)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Ten: Oscar's Favorite Foreign Filmmakers

tuesday top ten returns! It's for the list-maker in me and the list-lover in you

The Cannes film festival wrapped this weekend (previous posts) and the most recent Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, The Secret in Their Eyes is still in the midst of a successful US run. That Oscar winning Argentinian film came to us from director Juan Jose Campanella. It's his second film to be honored by the Academy (Son of the Bride was nominated ten years back). The Academy voters obviously like Campanella and in some ways he's a Hollywood guy. When he's not directing Argentinian Oscar hopefuls he spends time making US television with episodes of Law & Order, House and 30 Rock under his belt.

So let's talk foreign-language auteurs. Who does Oscar love most?

[The film titles discussed in this article will link to Netflix pages -- if available -- should you be curious to see the films]

Best Director winners Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Milos Forman
Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)

Please Note: Filmmakers like Ang Lee (Taiwan), Milos Forman (Czech) and Louis Malle (France) have won multiple notices for their foreign language work with the Academy but I'm restricting this list to those directors who worked primarily in their native tongue throughout their careers. The three aforementioned men all had their biggest Oscar successes from English language films.

The ranking that follows are somewhat arbitrary since we're
dealing with different kinds of attention paid.

Honorable Mention: Ettore Scola (Italy), Bo Widerberg (Sweden), Carlos Saura (Spain) and Zhang Yimou (China) each helmed 3 Foreign Film Nominees over the years... the latter two for submissions from two different countries. Denys Arcand (Canada) and Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia) have each directed 3 Nominees one of which won the prize (The Barbarian Invasions and Burnt By The Sun, respectively). Mikhalkov, who also acts in his pictures, recently completed the sequel to his Oscar winner called Burnt by the Sun 2, but reviews have been brutal so we aren't banking on seeing it in the Oscar lineup next year. Finally, Jose Luis Garci (Spain) directed 4 nominated films, winning once for Volver a Empezar.

let's make this a top dozen

12 István Szabó (Hungary) 1938 - still working
4 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 1 win

Like Spain's Garci, the last of the honorable mentions, Szabó directed 4 Foreign Film Nominees, winning once. But in the case of Szabó, it's a more surprising achievement. Unlike Spain, Hungary has rarely won much favor with Oscar. In fact, after Szabó's last nomination, Hungarian films have been completely ignored by the Academy.

In a remarkable hot streak in the Eighties, Szabo had four (!) Best Foreign Film nominations: Bizalom (1980), Mephisto (1981 winner), Colonel Redl (1985) and Hanussen (1988). The latter three all starred Klaus Maria Brandauer who became a fixture in international cinema after the success of Mephisto. It helps to speak several languages and be brilliant -- just ask Christoph Waltz (Yes, there are earlier incarnations of all success stories). Brandauer might have even won the Supporting Actor Oscar for his sterling work in Out of Africa (1985) had voters not been feeling sentimental for that Cocoon fella. Oscar was SO sentimental in the 80s.

But where were we? Ah yes. Szabo moved over to English language cinema (directing Annette Bening to a nomination for Being Julia) but he hasn't yet equalled those early Hungarian successes.

11 Mario Monicelli (Italy) 1915 - still living
2 nominations (writing) | 4 Foreign Film Nominees
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 6 nominations, 0 wins

He's best known for kicking off the commedia all'italiana movement in cinema and for the classic Big Deal on Madonna Street but Oscar's love for him stretches over six movies (His two screenplay nominations weren't even from his foreign film nominees). Monicelli turns 95 (!) this summer. He hasn't directed a feature film since 2006 but you may have seen him as an actor in the Diane Lane vehicle Under the Tuscan Sun (2003).


10 René Clément (France) 1913-1996
1 Foreign Film Nominee | 2 Honorary Foreign Film Wins (before category existed)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 4 nominations and 2 honorary statues

The Academy gave out 8 special foreign language film Oscars before they decided they needed to give foreign films their own category and René Clément won the prize twice during those years. In those days Oscar only had eyes for France, Italy and Japan. The Walls of Malapaga (1949) was his first win and he won again shortly thereafter for his internationally renowned classic Forbidden Games (1952). Games even won a second Oscar nomination for story two years later once it finally hit American screens (this is before they changed the rules to prevent films from competing in more than one year). That film was in some ways the perfect embodiment of Oscar's foreign type before Oscar even knew it had one: young children as protagonists + World War II.

The Academy created the foreign language film category as we know it in 1956 and Clément's was there again as a shortlister for the Emile Zola adaptation Gervaise (1956).Though that film was his last foreign film nominee, he continued to make movies for another two decades including such well regarded films as Purple Noon (1960) and Paris Brûle-t-il? (1966) which received two Oscar nominations in other categories.

09 Luis Buñuel (Spain) 1900-1983
2 nominations (writing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 1 win

Oscar arrived at the Buñuel party conspicuously late. They even ignored Belle de Jour (1967) one of the best films ever, despite awards attention elsewhere. Sometimes they are well behind the curve. Notice how long it took Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) and Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon) to win attention. In some ways it's surprising that AMPAS got there at all with Buñuel given the director's penchant for sexuality and surrealism. Oscar somewhat prefers the chaste and the literal as you know.

and the years of critical acclaim preceding it, opened their hearts to his work at the dawn of the '70s. His follow up, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), was a double nominee. Its win in the Foreign Film category has to count as one of the best but most unusual choices in the category's entire history. But then Oscar was at his most adventurous in the early 70s. Oscar and Buñuel had one last fling with That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). It was also Buñuel's last affair with the cinema. The father of cinematic surrealism was in his late 70s at the time and died in 1983.

08 Andrzej Wajda (Poland) 1926 - still working
1 Honorary Oscar | 4 Foreign Film Nominees
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 4 nominations, 0 wins and 1 honorary statue

Poland's most influential filmmaker was most revered by awards bodies in the latter half of the 70s and early 80s. He won 3 Foreign Film Oscar nominations in that period: Promised Land (1975), The Maids of Wilko (1979... retitled The Young Girls of Wilko) and Man of Iron (1981). To prove that it wasn't a temporary love, Oscar handed him an honorary statue for "five decades of extraordinary film direction" in March of 2000. He won a fourth foreign film nomination recently for Katyn (2007). His lauded filmography also includes Ashes and Diamond (1958) and the French biopic Danton (1983) starring Gerard Depardieu which received awards attention elsewhere but strangely no Oscar heat.

07 Jan Troell (Sweden) 1931- still working
2 nominations (directing, writing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees | 1 Best Picture Nominee
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 7 nominations, 0 wins

He's often forgotten in discussions of Scandinavian cinema (at least here in the US) since Ingmar Bergman casts such a long shadow. But Oscar was quite fond of him up until recently. His high water mark with the Academy was Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) -- strangely not on DVD -- one of only five pictures to ever achieve both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture nominations. Given Oscar history it's a bit odd that the Academy didn't jump on his latest picture Everlasting Moments (2008) and even with Max von Sydow in the lead role, Hamsun (1996) didn't win attention either.

06 Pedro Almodovar (Spain) 1949- still working
2 nominations (directing, writing) | 1 Oscar (writing) | 2 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 5 nominations, 2 wins

Spain's most famous living filmmaker has a fascinating Oscar history. The Academy embraced his international breakthrough Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) but then ignored the next ten years of his career. His Oscar comeback was the mature and wondrous All About My Mother (1999) which took the top prize, despite content that would normally scare them away. Given his global fame and AMPAS's familiarity with his mad melodramedic skill, you'd think he'd have more nominated films to his credit. Part of the problem is that the Spanish Academy, which makes Spain's choice about Foreign Film representation, hasn't always been gaga for Pedro's work. Famously they passed over Talk to Her (2002) in its year so Oscar handed that recent masterpiece a screenplay Oscar and a directing nomination instead. It's no small stretch of the imagination to say that it would've beat the German winner Nowhere in Africa that year to become Pedro's second winner in the category. Volver (2006) was weirdly snubbed in the Foreign category but managed the even more high profile Best Actress nomination and became Pedro's biggest stateside hit if you don't adjust for inflation.

05 Francois Truffaut (France) 1932-1984
3 nominations (writing, directing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win)
all Oscar categories: His films have earned 8 nominations, 1 win

This icon started his career as an obsessive cinephile and provoactive critic at the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. His feature debut, The 400 Blows (1959) kicked off the French New Wave and proved to be one of the most influential and acclaimed films ever made. That film won him the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival at only 27 years of age. It also netted him his first Oscar nomination and more would follow. His classics include seminal features like Jules et Jim (1962) as well as Oscar-recognized favorites like Stolen Kisses (1968), Day for Night (1973 -winner), The Story of Adele H (1975) and The Last Metro (1980).

Film buffs will note that he also acted, even receiving a BAFTA nomination for appearing in his admirer Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Here's Spielberg talking about working with him.

04 Akira Kurosawa (Japan) 1910-1998
1 Honorary Oscar | 1 nomination (directing) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (1 win) | 1 Honorary Foreign Film Win (before category existed)
all Oscar categories:
His films have earned 12 nominations, 2 wins and 2 honorary statues

Japan's most famous filmmaker spent over sixty years working in the cinema and his legacy is enormous. The Oscars don't paint a full enough portrait of his cinematic impact. Only two of his films won the Foreign Oscar: the game changing Rashomon (1951) which people have been riffing on ever since, making it one of the true must-sees for cultural literacy, and Dersu Uzala (1975) which actually won the prize for Russia rather than Japan. His other nominated films were Dodes'ka-Den (1970) and Kagemusha (1980). I can't recall the circumstances which led his King Lear style epic Ran (1985) to ineligibility in the foreign film category but the Academy compensated with a well deserved Best Director nomination for that classic.

Still, despite what would be more than plentiful Oscar attention for most filmmakers, this portrait feels incomplete. Major classics like The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961) or The Seven Samurai (1954) had to make due with technical nods or none at all. They sure did owe him that honorary Oscar they gave him in 1990 "For cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world."

* *
The Top Three

Oscar's most beloved trinity of foreign language film auteurs (in terms of this list's criteria) had the good golden fortune to be doing incredible work during the decades when US movie culture was most enamored of foreign fare. That is, at least since the silent film era, before sound came crashing into cinema toppling it like the tower of Babel.

03 Vittorio de Sica (Italy) 1901-1974
1 nomination (acting) | 3 Foreign Film Nominees (2 wins) | 2 Honorary Foreign Film Wins (before there was a category)
all Oscar categories: His (directorial) filmography has earned 10 nominations, 3 wins and 2 honorary statues

The Bicycle Thief and The Garden of the Fitzi-Continis... the titles alone sound mythic somehow, having amassed so much cultural heft over the years. Those two Oscar winning classics aren't true bookends of de Sica's acclaimed filmography but since one is from the 40s and one from the 70s they work as such. This Italian neorealist and prolific writer/actor/director was celebrated often and seemingly continuously from Shoe-Shine (1947's honorary winner) through his supporting actor nomination for A Farewell to Arms (1957) and onward until the Fitzi-Continis. His swansong The Voyage (1974) didn't win awards but it was a fitting goodbye, since it allowed him to reteam him with his frequent muse Sophia Loren.

Loren & de Sica. They made beautiful films together.

I was a bit surprised to see his name above Kurosawa's in this listing given their name recognition value these days but he's a truly giant figure from world cinema history, popularizing neorealism in the late 40s and delivering multiple classics. He was also one of the principle authors of Sophia Loren's legend having directed her in both her Oscar winning role in Two Women (1961) and in celebrated films like Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1964's foreign Oscar winner) and Marriage, Italian Style (1964). He also directed American screen giants like Montgomery Clift in Indiscretions of an American Wife and Shirley Maclaine in Woman Times Seven (she was Golden Globe nominated for that multiple role performance).
02 Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) 1918-2007
9 nominations (directing, writing, producing) | Irving Thalberg Award | 3 Foreign Film Winners | 1 Best Picture Nominee
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 21 nominations, 7 wins and a Thalberg

This legendary Swede's body of work is so deep and impressive (not to mention deeply immersed in the human condition) that listing his numerous Oscar successes wouldn't even acknowledge what some would argue is his greatest achievement (Persona, 1966). That black and white masterwork in which a mute actress (Bergman's muse and lover Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) become pyschologically fused has influenced much work since, including two of the greatest films from other world class auteurs (David Lynch's Mulholland Dr and Robert Altman's Three Women). Woody Allen never did his own Persona riff but he is arguably the most famous of Bergman's many auteur fans.

Bergman's filmography is essentially one treasure after another so we'll have to ignore the bulk of it for brevity's sake and point you to his Oscar films in case you haven't seen them. Program a mini festival at home. All three of his foreign film nominees won: The Virgin Spring (1960), Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Fanny And Alexander (1982). [Trivia Note: Sweden has never won the foreign prize outside of Bergman's work]

Cries and Whispers (5 nominations, 1 win for cinematography)

In addition to his foreign film winners Bergman's other gold successes include Wild Strawberries (1957) Face to Face (1976) and Autumn Sonata (1978). The Academy fell deepest into a hypnotic Bergman trance in the early 70s when they gave him the Thalberg award and then followed up that honor with multiple nominations, including Best Picture, for his great and disturbing female grief drama Cries and Whispers (1972).

01 Federico Fellini (Italy) 1920-1993
12 nominations (directing, writing, producing) | 1 Honorary Oscar | 4 Foreign Film Winners |
all Oscar categories: His filmography has earned 23 nominations, 7 wins and 1 honorary statue

Last year's adaptation of Nine, itself adapted from a stage musical adapted from Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963) wasn't well received enough to spark a mini-Fellini revival in the media but the media was once quite enamored of all moving parts of Fellini's cinematic circus. That press conference scene in Nine was no exaggeration or joke. In fact, the word "paparazzi" sprung to life because of one of his best loved movies La Dolce Vita (1960) in which a male photographer's name is Paparazzo. Fellini's celebrity was vast and his actors were also sensations. His male muse Marcello Mastroianni never won an Oscar but he holds the record of most nominations for non-English language performances, three in total).

Though their sensibilities are vastly different, Fellini shares with Bergman, his only real rival for Oscar's foreigner crown, a prolific career and one with consistent inspiration and awards pull. Even before he won notices for his directing he was winning screenplay nominations for films he didn't helm.

Fellini's Academy Award winners: La Strada (1956), Nights of Cabiria (1957), (1963), Amarcord (1974) Other Oscar-honored Fellinis: I Vitelloni (1953), La Dolce Vita (1960), Satyricon (1969), Fellini's Casanova (1970).

How familiar are you with the films mentioned?
I have a decent grasp of the Fellinis, Bunuels and Kurosawas. I'm nearly a completist with the Almodóvars (duh). But I need to get down to serious business on the Bergman's (small percentage despite my love. What's that about?) and I'm almost completely ignorant on the de Sicas and the Troells. So many I haven't seen.

How about you?