What do films like ALL IS LOST, GRAVITY, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and WORLD WAR Z, among so many others, have in common? Sure, all were released theatrically in 2013; however, even though their characters and the specifics of their storylines differ, all are linked in one major way.
Each day, it seems, a new film critics group or other such organization announces its Best Film and Best Actor and Best Actress choices for the just-concluded year. Then we have the Golden Globe awards which, let’s face it, is the equivalent of a Triple-A championship baseball game. Now we have the Academy Awards which, as Ed Sullivan used to say, is the “Really Big Show” that is the motion picture industry’s equivalent of the World Series or Super Bowl.
For decades, the behind-the-scenes lives of the famous have been fodder for celluloid “exposes.” In recent years in particular, filmmakers have been attracted to tales of illicit romances during times in which strict codes of social conduct were supposed to be adhered to. The latest example is THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, which is directed by Ralph Fiennes. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN charts the evolving relationship between an older Charles Dickens, who also is played by Fiennes, and a young woman named Nelly Ternan.
Usually, at the end of each year, a handful of high-quality Oscar-caliber films arrive in movie theaters. But this was not the case in 2013. Rather, a wealth of films that for one reason or another have been deserved acclaimed have opened theatrically. PHILOMENA, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, NEBRASKA, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, AMERICAN HUSTLE, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, HER, and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY have followed PRISONERS, GRAVITY, ALL IS LOST, and 12 YEARS A SLAVE into movie houses.
As the page turns and, in a split second on New Year’s Eve, the “old” becomes the “new,” it is a fine time to celebrate the season with a champagne toast and hearty rendition of Auld Lang Syne. And if you are interested in enjoying a cheerful New Year’s Eve-related film, why not check out Woody Allen’s Radio Days, which dates from 1987.
While soaking in the coverage on CNN of the death of Nelson Mandela, I was not surprised to hear the deservedly respectful quotes from diverse political figures. Certainly, Barack Obama’s declaration that Mandela “no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages” is ever-so appropriate.
These days, we are long-past the time in which cineastes would excitedly queue up to check out the latest work of art from a filmmaker who is not American: an Ingmar Bergman, say, or a Federico Fellini, an Akira Kurosawa, a Francois Truffaut. Today, with pitifully few exceptions, films with subtitles simply are not widely seen in the U.S. And with few exceptions-- two that come to mind are Michael Haneke and Pedro Almodovar-- there are no foreign filmmakers whose careers match the length and depth of Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, Truffaut, and so many others.
What does a filmmaker do for an encore after having scored a major international hit? The filmmaker in question is Asghar Farhadi. A couple years ago, Farhadi earned across-the-board acclaim and a well-deserved Best Foreign Film Academy Award for A Separation, a quietly powerful drama about a family in crisis. The country of origin of A Separation is Iran, and its characters are Iranian. But aside from being an exceptional film, what makes A Separation special is that it explores issues that are common to countless families, irrespective of nationality.