Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013 Awards Preview - Part 2: Specialties That Might Spellbind

    Below is my second list of films for the 2013-2014 Awards season, titled Specialties That Might Spellbind.  Each article in this series will present a group of upcoming releases that are currently on my watch list.  I divided the articles up to each represent the strengths found in cinema in one of the last four years (with 2013 as an unknown wild card for the fifth post). This post is in honor of the year 2010, perhaps the most innovative year for documentaries ever.  In its honor, I present films in the genres that Oscar divides off into their own categories: Documentaries, Foreign Language Films and Animated Features.
     On a side note, 2013 seems poised to be a real banner year for Foreign Films.  With offerings from Almodovar, Goddard, Panahi, Vallee, Vinterburg, Farhadi and Polanski in the mix, there have to be a few gems hidden in this soil.
      The movies that already have release dates are presented in chronological order.  The films that have not received such dates are listed alphabetically afterward.  The fifteen films (that have not already been released) that I am most excited about seeing appear in bold with short descriptions of why.  Do not be surprised if we see some of these get pushed back until 2014.  I will be surprised if we don't.  Still, for now, the Specialties That Might Spellbind in 2013 are...

  01/04 - 56 Up (now the kids from the early 60's doc 7 Up are 56)
  01/25 - Yossi (the sequel to the gay classic Yossi and Jagger)
  02/08 - Lore (Australia's celebrated submission to last year's Oscars)
  03/08 - Beyond the Hills (and Romania's)
  03/15 - From Up On Poppy Hill (from Japan's Studio Ghibli animation house)
  03/25 - Blancanieves (Spain's silent black and white Snow White adaptation, trailer looks great!)
               Room 237 (Documentary than ruminates on hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining)
  05/12 - Epic
  05/17 - Populaire
               Stories We Tell: Director Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz) brings us a very personal story of subjectivity and family secrets.   The movie won Best Documentary and Best Canadian Film at Toronto in 2012.
  05/24 - Fill the Void (Israel's submission to last year's Oscars)
              We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (from director Alex Gibney of Taxi to the Dark Side)
  06/21 - Monsters University
  06/28 - I'm So Excited: Celebrated Spanish director Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In, All About My Mother) assembles a host of classic characters from his films on a plane.  Cast includes Antonio Banderes and Penelope Cruz.
  07/03 - Despicable Me 2
  07/12 - The Hunt: Director Thomas Vinterburg won glory at Cannes with this film LAST year but it was released in Denmark too late to compete with A Royal Affair to be last year's Oscar submission.  It now seems like a likely choice for this year.  Can Denmark go two for two?  Stars international sensation Mads Mickelson.
  08/16 - Haute Cuisine
  TBA - Abus de Fablesse (stars Isabelle Huppert)
             The Act of Killing: This unusual documentary won critics over in droves at Sundance this year.  In it leaders of Indonesian death squads are invited to re-enact their real life mass killings in whatever movie genre they wish.  One is even a musical.  It's a macabre and fascinating concept to say the least.
             After Lucia (Mexico's submission to last year's Oscars)
             Atilla Marcel:  Director Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist, The Triplets of Bellevue) has delighted us for years with his French language ANIMATED pieces.  This will be his first attempt at crafting a live-action feature.
             Bambi (NOT the Disney cartoon)
             Blood Brother: Documentary that follows Rocky Braat (an American tourist in India) on a journey that changes his life when he meets a group of HIV positive children.  The film premiered at Sundance where it won an Audience Award and the documentary Grande Jury Prize.
             Blue Is The Warmest Color
             Bwakaw (The Phillipines 2012 Oscar submission, still awaiting US release)
             Call Me Kuchu (documentary about the first openly gay man in Uganda)
             Camille Claudel, 1915 (stars the amazing Juliette Binoche)
             Child's Pose: This film won multiple prizes at Berlin, putting it in an excellent position to secure a slot as Romania's submission to the Oscars this year.  Only time will tell...
              Closed Curtain: Jafar Panahi's follow up to This Is Not a Film returns the director to narrative fiction.  The film won a screenplay award at Sundance and MIGHT be a contender for the Oscars if the temperamental Iranians choose to submit this year.
              Continental (A documentary about the infamous NYC bath house)
              Dau (Biographical film about the scientist Lev Landau)
              The Deep (Iceland's submission to last year's Oscars)
              Ernest & Celestine (well reviewed French animated feature about a bear and a mouse)
              Gloria: Can Chile get two nominations in a row?  The film already won three prizes at Berlin including a Silver Bear for actress Pauline Garcia.
              Goodbye to Language:  It seems like every year now some "serious" director tries their hand at 3-D.  This year we appear to have two: Baz Luhrman gives us Great Gatsby and living legend Jaques Godard gives us Goodbye to Language.  Will this be a major comeback by a master film maker?
              Le Grande Belazza (Il Divo director Paolo Sorrentino's return to Italian cinema)
              Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg (this Latvian film got weak reviews, but the premise still has me)
              Hell & Back: A modern animated riff on the Orpheus legend from the creators of Robot Chicken?  Starring the voice talents of Susan Sarandan, Mila Kunis, Danny McBride, Michael Pena and Jennifer Coolidge?  I'm so in.
              Irwin & Fran (Biographical documentary of Professor Irwin Corey and his wife)
              Jeune et Jolie (stars Charlotte Rampling & Frederic Pierrot)
              Jimmy Picard (stars Benicio del Toro)
              Manto Acuifero
              Mixed Kebab: Gay drama from Israel, looks fantastic!
              Mood Indigo (Belgian production from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind director Gondry)
              Paradise: Hope
              Paris-Manhattan (French ode to all things Woody Allen)
              The Past: Iranian film maker Asghar Farhadi follows up Oscar winner A Separation with another story of a troubled family.  Stars Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet)
              Praia do Futuro (Could this be Brazil's submission this year?)
              Les Salauds
              Les Tableau (this French animated flick got a qualifying run last year but is still awaiting US release)
              Twice Born (stars Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch)
              Venus in Fur: It's been a little while since master director Roman Polanski (I know, I know, but the man is UBER-talented) made a film not in the English language.  This play has been adapted for film a few times already, but with Polanski at the helm, it's sure to be something special.
              Waste Land (stars Matthias Schoenaerts)\
              The Wind Rises: Legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki tackles a very serious subject for a cartoon: the biography of the man who designed the World War II fighter planes for Japan.

       And that does it for the Specialties that might Spellbind you in the coming year.  Only three sets of films left to go.  Next up: "Little Pics That Might Could" covering mostly indie dramas and dramedies with a chance to break through into the big time.  Join us here in the cinematic swamp for Part Three, and watch out for quicksand. Okay?

     Related Articles:  Upcoming 2013 Awards Season Preview2013 Awards Preview Part One: Pulpy PlayersImmortal Skin, Forgotten Dreams (The Skin I Live In review), To Royal Effect (A Royal Affair review), These Are Not the Loneliest Word (This Is Not a Film review)

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