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Oscar Nominated Shorts 2021

 

The Academy Awards show will take place this year on Sunday, April 25th, much later in the year than usual after it was pushed back 2 months because of the pandemic. As we get ready to fill out our ballots, the shorts are always the big question. So here’s a quick run-down on all three categories: Animation, Documentary, and Live Action.

Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 5

This week’s  picks include a healthy dose of Roman decadence, an obsessive and tragic snoop, a ghostly romance, a grieving mother on the warpath, violent union busting, food to die for, and a woman who’s brutally honest about sleeping her way to the top.  Something for everyone!  One is from Italy, another from Germany. There’s a Korean flick and a Danish one, too. And three of them are Oscar winners.

This week’s picks are:  La Grande Bellezza; The Lives of Others; Truly Madly DeeplyMother Matewan ; Babette’s Feast; Baby Face

Review: Another Round

Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, Far From the Madding Crowd) directed Mads Michelsen in The Hunt back 2013. In it Mikkelsen played a kindergarten teacher accused of a horrible crime he didn’t commit. In their latest collaboration Mikkelsen again plays a teacher, but this time he’s an older and more tired high school history teacher named Martin. One evening at his friend’s 40th birthday party, he and three of his fellow teachers who’re also stuck in a rut decided to test a theory about the benefits of controlled drinking to increase “social and professional performance.” It’s a strange and uncomfortable premise that somehow makes for an engaging dramedy.

Review: Koko-di Koko-da

Just in time for the holidays comes a truly creepy flick from Sweden about a couple grieving the loss of their young daughter and their crumbling marriage who go on a camping trip and get caught in a Groundhog Day loop of a murderous fairy tale. Every night Elin (Ylva Gallon) wakes Tobias (Leif Edlund Johansson) to say she needs to go outside the tent and pee, and every night a trio of monsters is outside just waiting to prey on her and him. But night after night Tobias awakens with a bit more information and a plan to get away from the horrors inflicted on them the nights before. It’s all allegory of their grief and their broken relationship and as the violent cycle continues they’re ultimately able to find their way back to each other. It’s a very odd film, definitely not for mainstream moviegoers, and frustratingly slow.

Review: Britt-Marie Was Here

We’ve seen this one before. An older woman finds out her husband has been having an affair and leaves him. First she struggles with it and then she finds herself. Last year’s Finding Your Feet explored this topic nicely. And now comes the Swedish version Britt-Marie Was Here, based on a novel by the same author that brought us the wonderful A Man Called Ove back in 2016. He certainly excels at writing older characters. Britt-Marie is no Ove, but it’s a pleasant enough little self-discovery flick for a matinee with some gal pals.

Quick Takes: Never Look Away; Transit; Woman at War

With Arty Chick off to parts unknown to direct a documentary, it’s possible her reviews will be fewer and farther between for a while. So I will try and highlight some of the artier films that I happen to see (and like). I’ll also note if they’ve been discussed on my weekly podcast, “The Cinema Clash” with Charlie Juhl, who tends to share Arty Chick’s passion for smaller, indie and foreign films. If we both a like a particular film, there’s a good chance you will too! Topping my list of recent forays into foreign-film land is the Oscar-nominated German film, Never Look Away. It’s part psychological drama, part war drama, part period romance. It takes place over the course of about 30 years, which helps explain the film’s three-hour running time.

Quickie Review: Border (Gräns)

You probably won’t see a more satisfyingly strange film this year than Border. The main character is Tina, a Swedish customs agent with an extraordinary talent. She can smell fear and deceit, so she regularly catches people bringing in contraband, too many bottles of wine, and even porn. But when a strange man named Vore passes through her line, she knows there is a something there, but she can’t read him. And she’s attracted to him. And the more she gets to know him, the more she learns about herself and why she has always been so different from everyone else. For her it’s a voyage of self-discovery and her first real romance. For him, it’s political. For us, it’s a bizarrely fun ride.

Review: Becoming Astrid

This lovely Swedish biopic tells the story of the challenging early life of Astrid Ericsson (Lindgren) who would go on to write the children’s classic Pippi Longstocking and a slew other memorable books. Born in a rather idyllic if strict farming community, at 16 she was offered a job at the local paper and fell for the married editor. Though it was reciprocated, an unplanned pregnancy caused her to make some very difficult decisions that colored the way she saw children and undoubtedly made her the writer she was to become. Played by Alba August (The Rain), Astrid is initially brimming with curiosity and energy, but her pregnancy and the choices she is forced to make with the child take a heavy toll. Fortunately, it all works out by the end, or we wouldn’t have her wonderful books.

Review: The Guilty

This Danish thriller aka Den skyldige is simply amazing. There is just one man on camera through almost all the film’s 85 minutes, and you can’t look away for a second. Asger (Jakob Cedergren) is a cop who’s been put on desk duty. Tomorrow is a trial and its outcome will decide if he’s back out with his partner. In the meantime, he’s answering the phone at 211 (Danish 911) and counting the minutes until he’s gone. That is until he answers a call and it’s a woman who’s being kidnapped.

Review: Under the Tree (Undir trénu)

There are actually two storylines running concurrently in this very dark dramedy from Iceland. In one, everyman Atli is caught by his wife watching a sex tape in which she is not a participant, is kicked out of the house, and has to go live with his parents. In the other, Atli’s parents Baldvin and Inga are in an ever escalating fight with their neighbors Konrad and Eybjorg over a tree in the backyard. And while Atli tries to make amends with his wife and get to see his cute little daughter, he’s living with a mother who doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality and a father who is taking his cues from her in the battle over the tree’s future. The theme that runs through both stories is how easily people think the worst and act on their assumptions. And how nothing good ever comes from it.