Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut, Coriolanus, opens Friday at West End Cinema. Image courtesy of Icon Entertainment.
Global Glimpses: Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Nominees
As we mentioned last week, all of the short film Academy Award nominees are currently playing on local screens, and this weekend you’ll have the chance to play catch-up with the foreign language feature nominees. As it does every year, National Geographic is offering up screenings of all five of the nominees as a part of its ongoing Global Glimpses film series. Many of these will be opening in the area in the coming weeks, but this series allows you to get in as many as you want over the course of the weekend, giving you that leg up in the office Oscar pool in a category many folks are left guessing on.
Things get started Friday night with the one title that has already opened in DC: A Separation, an Iranian film that’s still playing up in Bethesda and is the odds-on favorite to win the award. You’ll get no argument from me; I thought it was spectacular, and it made my overall top ten for 2011 on DCist. Saturday has Belgium’s Bullhead, about a cattle farmer considering the use of growth hormones on his livestock; and the Israeli submission, Footnote, about a father and son who are competing Talmudic scholars. On Sunday, the two films come from Poland (In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland’s story of Jews hiding in the sewers of Lvov to evade the Nazi roundup) and Canada (Monsieur Lazhar, in which an Algerian immigrant is hired as a substitute teacher for a group of kids whose previous instructor died).
Friday through Sunday at National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium. $8 per screening. Tickets are available online.
The latest film from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio best known for the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), is being distributed to more US theaters by its stateside distributor, Disney, than any film from the studio previously. It makes sense: The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the beloved British children’s book The Borrowers, about a race of little people who live in the walls and basements of normal humans. Disney obviously feels the familiar Western subject matter might appeal to a broader audience than previous works that had a stronger basis in Japanese culture and mythology. Miyazaki isn’t directing this time around, though he did produce and co-write the script, and judging from the look of the film, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi has obviously studied very closely at Miyazaki’s elbow. The finished product might not have all the magic of the studio’s best work, but it’s still a gorgeously rendered adaptation of the tale.
Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut this year, and perhaps unsurprisingly he’s chosen a Shakespearean adaptation as his first project. No standard old chestnuts here, though: Fiennes takes on the lesser-known, seldom-filmed Roman tragedy Coriolanus, tackling the title role of a Roman general who, after starting a campaign to become a consul, expresses distaste for rule by the people and is banished, only to return with a fighting force bent on revenge. Fiennes imagines a Roman Empire that exists in the present day, allowing for modern warfare in the story’s fairly violent framework and making the political themes feel all the more relevant.
Ten years ago, while still in his late thirties, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was one of the richest men in the world. Now, he’s one of the most famous prisoners in the world, having been imprisoned by the Russian government since 2005 on charges of fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. Guess that explains how one gets so rich so quickly. But the story isn’t quite as simple as that, as some contend that Khodorkovsky was jailed for political reasons rather than criminal ones after publicly challenging Vladimir Putin. Cyril Tuschi’s documentary attempts to dig into the reasons Khodorkovsky sits in jail today, pulling archival footage of his rise and fall and combining it with interviews with his family, early business partners, and old friends.
View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at E Street Cinema.
For less topical fare from the former Soviet Union, the AFI is putting on a quick two-film series of two Shakespearean adaptations from Ukranian director Grigori Kozintsev, a Soviet filmmaker whose career stretched from the silent era all the way to the early 1970s, and who delved into theater and avant-garde art as well. Earlier in the director’s career he directed both Hamlet and King Lear on the stage in Leningrad, and as his career drew to a close, he returned to those works to make his final two films. This weekend, the AFI will host his 1964 Hamlet. That will be followed the next weekend by his 1971 adaptation of King Lear. Both films were adapted using translations of the text by Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, and both feature scores by Dmitri Shostakovich.
View the original trailer for Hamlet . It screens this Sunday at 1:15 PM and Tuesday at 6:45 PM; King Lear screens next Sunday, February 26, at 3 and 8 PM.
Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week: Take Shelter
One of the best, and unfortunately overlooked, films of last year was the second feature from writer/director Jeff Nichols, which starred Michael Shannon as a husband and father plagued by dreams of apocalyptic storms that will wipe out everything in their path. Anxiety over his future, as manifested in the dreams, begins to merge with real life, with Shannon’s character upending his family’s life to build an underground shelter and eventually losing his job due to his own paranoia, and the film constantly builds its psychological tension to discomfiting highs. Shannon and Jessica Chastain, who plays his wife, both turn in a some of the best work by any actors this year, even if the limited release and unsettling tone of the film left it off the Academy’s nominating radar. It was here and gone in a heartbeat when it was released last fall, but now you can catch up with it at home. You can read my full review of the film at the DCist here.
Special Features: A commentary track with Nichols and Shannon, two deleted scenes, a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and a 20-minute Q&A with Shannon and costar Shea Whigham.