I was under the impression that only English language films are nominated in the Oscars. Films made in other languages are piled into the Best International Feature Film category. Nobody pretended that the Oscars consider ALL films equally. So why did Parasite (an entirely Korean film) get nominated in the Best Picture category? What does it say about future nominations? What does it say about dozens of other brilliant international films that the Oscars ignored?
There was a non English language film nominated just last year (Roma). I'd say Parasite was nominated because it was a popular/easily digestible movie, it had a strong campaign, and because the director is fairly popular in the states (compared to other international directors).
Roma was for similar reasons. Strong distributor (Netflix), popular director (Cuaron), and not as digestible, but still fairly popular (hard to say since it didn't have a wide release).
For a film to be nominated, it must meet certain rules that the academy imposes. One of these rules is a technical premiere in USA theaters. If any rule is not fulfilled, no matter how popular or easily digestible the movie is, it won't be nominated.
Letters is not a foreign film for the reason you mentioned, but it's a foreign language film, like all that you've mentioned here. Technically all UK movies nominated for best picture are "foreign" compared to Hollywood but still in English.
English language films usually get the nominations cause the Oscars voting block usually only watch english language films. There is no rule preventing a foreign language film from being nominated.
None of the people seem to have a concrete answer, but there are rules for Best Picture nominations. To be considered in this category, a foreign film must have been commercially released in Los Angeles County. And I believe it's the case for Parasite, therefore it is eligible.
Parasite was nominated IMO because it truly ascended the art form to such a level that the minuscule barrier that is subtitles for American viewers didn’t matter. Good film is good film. I have a friend who is an aspiring screenwriter describe the movie to me before I saw it for myself as, “Demoralizing because I feel I could never achieve something so perfect.”
As for what it says about other foreign-language films that weren’t given their just due by the Academy in the past... I don’t believe it takes away anything from them. The Oscars isn’t the end all be all of what constitutes great cinema. What this nomination—and last year with Roma—does is hopefully set a precedent going forward that it doesn’t matter what language a film is in and if merited, should receive it’s appropriate recognition. A good director operates in the universal language... the cinematic language.
I think it's because the movie studios thought it would have a good shot at best picture as well as best foreign feature. Usually movie studios won't put a foreign language film up for best picture because they think it will have a better chance in the foreign language category and would rather focus on that. My concern is that seeing as Parasite is in both Best Picture AND Best International Feature, it could lose out on both as voters think it will win one of them so they vote for something else.
Best Picture is voted on a preferential ballot, so this type of thing can't really happen. At worst, a voter may decide to rank it 2nd instead of 1st. I don't see them bringing it all the way down to 9th just because they are already voting for it in Foreign Film.
Being on the internet long enough, I'm sure many of you have come across a genre of film criticism and observation that centers arounds things that nobody normally would have noticed. Something that the vast majority of people did not need to know in order to enjoy or dislike a film. Take for example the Indiana Jones "story problem" which was what inspired me to finally tackle this topic that has been bothering me for a long time.
For those that don't know what the Indiana Jones story problem is, here's an explanation that boils my blood (disclaimer: Big Bang Theory clip). What absolutely grinds my gear about this is that it's such a pointless observation to make. Sure the plot would go on as normal without Indi, but the story would not have. Nobody would watch that film for the Nazis, they're only a plot device, and the Ark is only a MacGuffin. People enjoy the film because of the story the protagonist experiences.
And this is what's at the heart of the issue: PLOT IS NOT STORY.
The Lord of the Rings is not about a quest to throw some ring into a volcano, it is about archetypal characters fulfilling their destinies, it is about good triumphing over the evil corruption of power. Blade Runner is not about a man that hunts down androids, it is about what being human means: themes of empathy, soul and identity. Find Nemo is not about a fish searching for another fish, it's about a dad and a son coming to understand each other.
A plot merely serves as a vehicle for the themes of a story. And obsessing over the plot, instead of the story, will lead to a kind of way of viewing film (and also literature) that is completely alien to the purpose of art and to the experience of the vast majority of viewers. But on the internet, we see this kind of analysis of art all the time, in an almost pseudointellectual fixation. All those "X explained videos" or "the truth about X", or CinemaSins videos in general, that try to breakdown art like logic puzzles. Where twists and hidden truths are what makes a film good, and plot holes and nitpicks what makes a film bad; never mind the actual story and themes!
And this is how we end up with theories that are completely divorced from the actual experience of art, theories that don't serve any purpose to the themes of a movie or literature, but only serves as a release of dopamine for feeling smart at figuring out a "hidden" truth that no one else realized, or to make people go "mind=blown". This is where all the "Ferris Bueller doesn't exist", "Deckard is secretly a replicant", "Jar Jar was secretly a Sith", "there's incest in Edgar Allan Poe's Fall of the House of Usher" and "the protagonist is actually gay, and he's also dead and all of this is happening in the afterlife" theories come from. It's a way of viewing art as a puzzle, and not as art. Where logical breakdowns of plot are more important than the themes, and the film can be "ruined" by simple nitpicking or plot spoilers.
This is not to say that having such logic puzzles in a writing will diminish the work. M Night Shyamalan has singlehandedly made a name for himself by writing in such kinds of twists in his work. J.J. Abrams is known for his mystery boxes in Lost. Christopher Nolan has created some of the best cinema in recent decades by writing plots where logical fixation is important. But as the success of Nolan's work, the failure of Shyamalan's later works, and the disappointment of Lost in later seasons have shown, an intellectually stimulating plot is not a substitute for actual story, with vital themes and characters present. And as works of auteurs like David Lynch or Andrei Tarkovsky have shown us, it is indeed possible to make great works of art without much of a plot.
So what's the takeaway from this rant?
Plot is not the end-all and be-all of films, film criticism is much more than simply putting the plot under a microscope. And "fixing" a film takes much more than simply doing surgery on the plot.
My exposure to cinema started with dubbed Hollywood blockbusters in dingy cinemas with my uncle as a kid. Something about them attracted me much more than the local cinema. I watched a lot of them on television as I grew up enough to understand 'inside jokes'. I think I got acclimatized to them and hence I started seeing the worth of movies in a mechanical way.
Local cinema was 'pathetic' in my eyes. Anyone dares praise a local movie and I would rant on how many plot holes it has, how unrealistic it is etc. like a wannabe cinephile. Even Hollywood couldn't escape my "criticism" if a movie didn't follow the "correct" structure I "know". Those that did and were decent enough became my all-time favorites.
As I got older and streaming became available, I started exploring more cinema from all corners. I had already been fond of anime but was only aware of the generic popular ones. I started watching Ghibli movies and for the first time, something not formulaic amazed me. But, I was quick to declare it an anomaly and only characteristic to Studio Ghibli. I still kept berating movies I don't think are worthy enough, feeling superior to my casual movie-watching friends as I explain Nolan's intricate plots I learned from YouTube videos.
And YouTube is where I started seeing a new layer in cinema. Movies I thought were boring and nonsense made more sense (*cough* 2001: A Space Odyssey). That much more detail goes into good movies that I frequently dismissed. Started watching great world cinema and enjoy them. But. this caused a kind of relapse of my "cinephile superiority". Now, I know more than complex plots, much more exclusive in my eyes. The local cinema was below pathetic now. I KNEW MOVIES.
Then, I joined r/TrueFilm after coming across it somewhere on Reddit. Cool, an exclusive 'deep' club where I can find my peers and not the "casual film-goers' who enjoy trash. But, r/TrueFilm started to look antagonistic. The beliefs I formed about movies were constantly being downvoted. I myself got downvoted a lot with my "objective" assertions. It wasn't just the downvotes, the replies on why they are wrong made too much sense. Movies can never be criticized objectively, everyone has their opinion and all of them are equally valid. I can never prove a movie being superior to another and ratings are simply meaningless in the grand scheme.
It was a hard pill to swallow. If I am going to accept this, I had to let go of many ideas about what makes a good movie and that they are not objective. That I was missing the point all along.
I eventually swallowed it. Wiped my ideas clean and just started watching movies again. And true enough, I started to 'feel' movies. When I connect with a movie, nothing matters. I don't care about the plotholes or realism or structures. All that matters is I 'connect' with the movie and everything else just dissolves into the background. I am fully immersed and forget that I am watching a movie. Sometimes something just clicks in a film and I just shed tears in awe (*cough* Portrait of a Lady on Fire)
I do criticize them but not like before. Even if I think it's bad I totally respect someone else's opinion who loves it. Don't care what others think, love what you love. I still feel bad when I can't seem to 'connect' with movies many love (recently, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) or when others seem to underrate movies I love. I am learning to let go of that too since it shouldn't matter.
I feel humbled knowing I know very little and I will never learn everything. But, I am happy I found what I think is the best way for me to enjoy movies and can 'connect' with most of them like before. In a way r/TrueFilm really did show me the true side of movies. Thanks to the community for that.
Only yesterday I got to watch this cult classic for the first time. I was posively impressed. Of course, the story itself is thin. Some scenes remind me of playing the first Doom game, with a perverse difference - the protagonist chose/decided at the spot which regular looking people were clueless innocents and which ones were actual monsters deserving of being blasted even if they're unarmed. Gave me a little of the creeps. The movie not only makes the protagonist feels like what it is to be seen as insane - he soon joins an organization which would be Q-Anon on steroids, if they weren't actually right about things. What does it make of shooting people (not people!) almost randomly? It's almost like having a mass shooter as a protagonist. It's an upside down world - except it speaks of something very real, of how no only obedience but mainly consumerism and hedonism make the dominant class even more rich and powerful.
I'm here to discuss the themes and the cinematography and I've already discussed the themes. What really surprised me was the cinematography. It's relevant to point that soundtrack, cinematography and story are in a three-way conjunction where they serve each other. The clean, calm and solid narrative, without expressionist or surreal moments of fear or paranoia, the constant deadpan of the movie, with the soundtrack going on just as suspenseful as it needs to be and not a bit more, are really what makes this movie belong more in action and almost comedy than in horror or suspense. It's not even a little bit psychological.
I think the most beautifully shot scene is the garbage truck scene. Our hero is inside the trash compartment, which door is open; the compartment is elevated (it wasn't clear why) as the truck starts moving away, The camera is still as the trash is slowly disposed on the ground, including the protagonist, who stands up on the first plan while the truck goes away and gets smaller between the walls of the city. The very next scene is the famous 6 minute long fight scene between the protagonist and his friend, certainly one of the best fight scenes ever shot, and also an accomplishment in cinematography on its on way. But I was not expecting such an appolinian cinematic scene just as the garbage truck one just before.
I think that would be the best scene, but we have more of this golden stuff. The movie is full of beautiful shots of the characters walking in Los Angeles, before or after he finds out about the glasses.
I wouldn't say the same of the action scenes. They're just ok. But it makes sense within the movie. There's never a stupid, over dramatic build up like in formulaic Hollywood action movies. By the way: it's impressive that, except by the scene were the police actually shoots people with chainguns, the police in this distopic world as imagined in 1988 is less brutal than the actual police in 2021. This Saturnday, during anti-Bolsonaro marches in Brazil, the police shot two men directly into their eyes with rubber bullets - in one case, it was a point blank shot. Coincidentally, the two were not part of the march. They've both lost eyesight. It was absolutely unprovoked. The police was probably acting independently from the governor, with pro-Bolsonaro militarymen (police in Brazil is military) attempting to repress marches agaisnt their leader.
I did not enjoy Alien: Covenant at release but I found it benefited a lot from a rewatch . I’m not sure what the main difference was, but I suspect it was less expectation about what the film should be and I was more willing to take it on its own merits. The first 45 minutes or so are pretty perfect and the rest isn't quite as good but still maintains a solid amount of tension and intrigue. Fassbender is magnetic as David, it’s one of those performances like Hannibal Lecter or Hans Landa that just draws you in in terror.
I’m really glad this series came back into the hands of Ridley Scott. His interest in actual themes and imagery pertaining to creation and evolution elevate this beyond a forgettable space thriller. Even at its worst it's still exploring interesting ideas and the machiavellian development of David as a master antagonist is so compelling. He's humanity's greatest foil. A reminder of how insubstantial we are, even at the height of our accomplishments. Our abilities to create life and see the stars will always be undone by our own hubris. I really want to see a third one now.
I'm not going to call this and Prometheus masterpieces but I think they are better than they're given credit for, especially in a landscape dominated by fairly disposable blockbusters. Even in terms of craftsmanship Scott's aesthetics are almost unmatched. The texture of the production design and cinematography is so rich and is just a joy to look at. He never lost that knack for tangibility he had with the original Alien.
It's also neat that the series has maintained consistent capable female leads for 6 films (7 if you count AvP but I wouldn't begrudge you for not). Not many other action blockbuster franchises can say the same.
I know this is probably a fairly unpopular opinion but I'd be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on these movies as well.
I'm fascinated by instances of reevaluation, whether positive or negative and what brings reevaluations about. One such instance I learned of recently is The Night of the Hunter.
Apparently when the film first came out it was poorly reviewed, so much so that Laughton never directed another film. Yet today, the film sits on the Sight and Sound list of greatest films of all time.
Does anyone know the story behind this particular reevaluation? How did it happen, what brought it about etc.
By now, Akira has cemented itself as a classic of cult cinema. It often appears near the top of best anime films lists, let alone best films lists in general. We are all familiar with that fantastic sliding-bike shot, paid homage to in countless subsequent films as a moment of superb camp action. Its influence on modern sci-fi is among an elite cannon.
Nonetheless, it seems a safe bet that Akira could not be made today. Its gorgeous hand-drawn art style could never be matched by computer animation. There is some ineluctable quality about the violence of the film that surpasses what comes out of the anime circuit today, and that is dependent on the simple art style. Bullets enter bodies and erupt in a vibrant, arcade red. When this shade of red erupts out of the bodies of political dissidents, the disturbing novelty of the film appears even more acute.
One such moment occurs towards the start of the film. Akira begins with one of the most mesmerizing opening sequences ever devised. The traditional Japanese music overscoring the biker-gang duel, intercut with scenes of a labor uprising, intercut with some enigmatic agent fleeing with an alien/test-subject/mutant child all works together to achieve a breathtaking sequence. I have seen Akira through to the end only a couple of times, but have returned to this opening on more occasions than I can count. It is really perfect, right up to the pink smoke cloud encasing the troubled city in a jarring, if not relieving, mono-color.
If there were one shot I could point to as a sample of the discordant elements I am speaking about, it must be in this opening sequence, when the enigmatic man is shot, absolutely pulverized by a barrage of bullets. The sight of his body exploding in blood, mangled beyond recognition, always evokes in me a sense of the horrors of political violence. The shot incorporates some surrealist tendencies, a spotlight on the mangled body as the bullets enter, and an askew perspective we take to be the child’s, whom this man has died in an attempt at saving. Immediately, the child’s face appears. His deafening screams erupt, and the subsequent destruction of a whole city block seems a quite rational sequence of events, despite the actual absurdity of the physical world reacting in an emotional manner. Schematically, we might outline these moments as follows: Violence – horror – destruction.
The political philosophy of Akira is embedded, I believe, in these three moments. We could also understand them as an empirical moment (the sight of the body mangled) the pathological internalization (the shot of the child screaming) and subsequently these pathological effects made manifest in the physical (destruction). Another way of saying this is that there is a clear link between the mental and the physical, a causality of pathos and emotion holding the world in relation.
This is all incredibly appropriate considering the central device of the film; Akira is, for all its mesmerizing detours, a film about telekinesis. Of course, this is the supernatural ability to control the world with one’s mind. At one point Tetsuo, the antagonist, puts his hand out about a foot from a glass of water, but instead of picking up the glass of water, the glass moves into his hand. By the end of the film, it is understood that as a result of an inferiority complex internalized since childhood, Tetsuo effectively self-denigrates into an atomic detonation. A similar mechanism of storytelling underscores these moments: the internal and the external, acting in tandem.
Earlier, in a less climactic moment, but equally masterful in terms of filmmaking – Kaneda, the hero of the film, has escaped from a detention center teeming with the political prisoners captured after the event of the first act. Kaneda, ambivalent to the political machinations going on around him, has become transfixed with a woman he encounters in police custody. Helping her escape the center, he begins chatting with her outside in a ridiculous attempt at wooing her. She shows no interest in his advances and brushes him off. He responds awfully, berating her, and by the end of his tirade suggests that she owes him a sexual recuperation for having rescued her from the prison. The speech is, needless to say, very distasteful. But at the exact finale of his tirade, at the exact moment he finishes calling her a “bitch,” a bomb goes off in the background, cementing the twang of pathos we, the viewer, feel when we hear (or read in subtitles) the jarring word. It is a minor touch, but very in-line with the cinematic tendency of the film I am speaking of.
In exact terms, this tendency is to mirror pathological sentiments with material manifestations. The emotions of the characters somehow match up with material referents in the physical. Thus, we have the political side-plots driving the film, dissatisfactions with modernity and corruption resulting in contingent manifestations of violence. At one point, a revolutionary cult-member paints a graffiti on a bridge, reading, “Reject civilization – Embrace annihilation.” He is promptly detained and beaten by the police.
There are moments in the film when characters attempt to explain a complex metaphysical philosophy that compliments this interrelation of empirical-internal-external, a rugged philosophy on par with Taoist thought; we could also call these moments Hegelian, and include them in the canon of basic literary politics. Oedipus, of course, is the victim of his own heinous actions made manifest in the physical world. Macbeth, slaying a motley of characters in his political assent, sows his own demise. In a similar way, the pathological tensions in Akira are depicted as not merely contingent upon, or consequential to events, but somehow invested in the events themselves, as a metaphysical causality.
To some extent, I think any good story must incorporate the elements I have been talking about. The conflict of a story must be somehow related to the characters of the individuals involved. Whether the conflict decides, or is decided by the characters, in a deterministic sense, is a common point of divergence. Think of the Hebrew Bible, where characters are victims of cosmic abuse. Akira seems to be on the opposite end, a story where the characters determine the world instead of vic-versa. Literally, Telekenis is the supernatural act of effecting the world with pathos alone. It is total control, the total capacity to translate normative desires and ethical wishes "oughts" into physical actuality — a fundamental premise at the core or all political movements.
Nonetheless, tragedy erupts, a trope that usually implicates fate and subjection to the forces of destiny. Again the film works between discordant elements: Telekinesis and fatalism. No matter the political machinations and desires all that happens is that things become muddled. By the end of the film total "annihilation" is indeed the only means of building anew.
I like to think this contributes to the films overall genius, a literary-political thematic that may be called Karma, Fate, or just aggregate societal tension. In any case, Akira is a film that succeeds on this impressive register of storytelling, implicating human agency and pathos in the events of the world, while simultaneously absolving humanity as the victims of uncontrollable defects -- as the best tragedies do.
I was introduced to Buñuel because I knew of Dalí, and I found out that while Buñuel was in Paris from 1925 to whenever he returned to Spain to direct Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land without bread), he worked with Dalí to write these two films. First of all, I have not seen Buñuel's later work and I probably should, from what I know his later work would be less surrealistic and more leaning on realism, was this because of the Spanish civil war? Did Buñuel become so devastated by the destruction of his country that he changed entirely after the Second World War? He moved to Mexico too which makes me believe he still had strong ties with his culture and people. What I'm curious about is choices to not return to surrealism. Does he show surrealistic influence even after these troubled decades? In an Interview made in 1970, he said that in his life there was a lot of doubt, doubts about religion, doubts about women and power. I think his first two film are very well structured and I think they contain metaphors and symbols internally. For example, in Un Chien Andalou I Think he is making clear the difference between a man and a woman, to a more basic level (without wanting to offend anyone), since the man is nearly seen as a beast in this film, going through his journey to become more sophisticated and gentle, whereas the woman is a more sacred being. Nevertheless, it strikes me the fact that Buñuel would move to a more realistic edge, since surrealism is definitely a major quality of his. Maybe I am speaking too soon since I have not seen many of his later work, or else I might be missing something.